April 19, 2018
by Thomas Lenz
Creighton University's School of Pharmacy
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 276

Acts 8:26-40
Psalms 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
John 6:44-51

Celebrating Easter

Easter Prayer for Today

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Don't Work for Food that Perishes

In John’s gospel writings from today, we read about Jesus telling his followers that the path to God, the Father, is through him. He relates himself to bread and even calls himself, “the bread of life.” We have heard this connection of Jesus to bread many times in the gospels and other readings, in songs, in homilies, and most significantly, in the consecrated bread we receive at Holy Communion.

As I read the gospel reading for today, this connection and imagery stood out to me. I couldn’t seem to focus on other parts of the reading – only the connection that Jesus is bread and that bread is Jesus. So, this is where my reflection for today is centered. What is it about Jesus and bread that is important for me to understand? Why does Jesus make this connection? And, what can it mean for me today?

I did a little searching about the history of bread. It turns out that the first evidence of bread making dates back 30,000 years ago. In fact, 800 years before the time of Jesus there is evidence of a process to refine wheat through milling to create a smoother texture. By the time Jesus lived, bread was an important part of most people’s diet. It was inexpensive, easy to make, and was portable (I guess convenience was also important 2000 year ago).

The obvious connection between Jesus and bread is the nourishment that both provide. From a nutritional perspective, we need food to foster and maintain a healthy life. And, from a faith and spirituality perspective, we need Jesus to foster and maintain a healthy relationship with God.

That connection is easy. Maybe the message is supposed to be that obvious so that we don’t miss it, or misinterpret it. Without over thinking the connection that Jesus is making for us, it is through the consumption of him that we receive everlasting life with God in Heaven. Got it.

But, my thoughts keep coming back to bread and how people of today view eating bread. The advice on healthy eating that we see online, in books and magazines, and on television can be confusing, to say the least. With regards to bread, some experts tell us to stay away and to eat “low carb or no-carb.” While others say that bread and other “carbs” (carbohydrates) are an important part of a healthy diet.

Without taking this reflection off-track by debating carbs vs. no-carbs, I find a bit of coincidence (or maybe irony) in thinking about Jesus as a high carb eating plan. The most recent nutritional guidelines (and all previous versions) say that the majority of our calories should be coming from carbohydrates. These carbohydrate calories, of course, need to be from the right source. Bread, especially whole grain bread, is still recommended as an important part of our nutritional calories. On the other hand, a no-carb diet has been shown to be detrimental to the health of most people. But, confusion and creative marketing seems to influence many people to avoid bread and other “good” carbs. It makes me think about the ways that our society influences us to avoid Jesus much the same. Creative messaging, confusion, anxiousness, and despair seem to be all around us to sway our thinking that purchasing a certain product or acting a certain way will bring us happiness. Similar to a balanced and healthy eating plan (including carbs) to bring about physical health, we cannot be spiritually healthy without consuming the Bread of Life.

So, maybe this is why the reading of today seemed to focus my attention on the connection between Jesus and bread. Society has a tremendous influence on how we think and on our actions. It’s easy to be convinced that a no-carb diet is the way to good health. Just the same, it is easy to be convinced that the way to happiness and peace is through material goods and actions that are counter to the “consumption” of Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life. To consume him means that we are fully nourished, happy and healthy.

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