Monday, August 03, 2015

The True Bread from Heaven

by Diane Bayne

So they said to him,”What sign can you do that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?  Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven: my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will not thirst.”  JN 6:34-35

“I am the bread of life” proclaims Jesus.  He loves us so much that He could not bear to leave us. And so in every Mass He unites Himself to us in the Eucharist.  Pondering what to include in today’s meditation, my first thought was to look up the English words to “Panis Angelicus” (“Bread of Angels”).  Then, after twenty minutes of sitting “in the Presence” the words of the following song came to mind–a love song from long ago:

“I’ll be loving you-- always.
With a love that’s true – always,
When the things you’ve planned
Need a helping hand
I will understand-–
      Always, Always.
Things may not be fair – always,
That’s when I’ll be there – always,
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
       but Always.”

Those of us of a certain age may remember this old-fashioned love song.  (That was back in the day when you could actually hear the lyrics to a song as it was sung and even hum along with the tune.)  When we hear this song–and many others like it–we often automatically think that the song is about human love.  And so it is.  But on second thought–and after reading the words of today’s Gospel--we can see that it also applies to divine love, to God’s love for us.

The words of today’s gospel tell us of the people’s request to Jesus “Sir, give us this bread, always” – and of Jesus’s reply: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  There it is, the perennial appeal of a lover: “I love you and I will be with you – always.

Now the idea that God loves us will not be news to any of you, for it is the central theme of every Cursillo weekend.  But even those of us who do know God loves us–and who have experienced this love–need to be reminded from time to time.  In his book Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen describes an all-too-familiar scenario:
“Don’t you often hope: maybe this book, this idea, course, trip, job or relationship will fulfill my deepest desire.  But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment, you will go on running, helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied.  This is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere.  This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout.  This is the way to spiritual death.  Well you and I don’t have to kill ourselves.  WE ARE THE BELOVED.”

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, Henry hears at his center words that say:
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning.  You are mine and I am yours.  You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.  I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb.  I have carved you on the palm of my hand and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.  I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.  I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.  Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.  You belong to me.  I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse. . .  wherever you are I will be.  Nothing will ever separate us.  We are one.”

In a recent daily meditation, Pastor Rick Warren, said “The reason you are alive is because God wanted to love you. The first purpose of your life is to be loved by God! Yes, it is important to serve, obey, and trust him, but your first purpose is to love him.”  In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul declares:  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT).

And so Rick Warren concludes:  “Let this sink in: Your first duty is not to do anything but just be loved by GodAnd then to love Him in return.

TODAY give God a good twenty minutes–or more–to sit in the silence, thanking Him for His love, asking for his help, and most of all, praising Him and telling Him you love Him.  Then take a few minutes to journal how He answers you.

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