LUKE AND BREAD
(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST – Sunday, 2nd of June 2013)
First Reading: Gen 14:18-20; Psalms: Ps 110:1-4, Second Reading: 1Cor 11:23-26; Gospel Reading: Luke 9:11-17
The story of how Jesus fed the multitude, as told by Luke, prefigures the ministry of the apostles in the Christian community. The actions of Jesus in taking, blessing, breaking and distributing the food would become the Eucharistic actions. The work of the apostles was foreshadowed when Jesus told them, “Give them something to eat yourselves.”
Bread is surely the most relevant symbol of hope for a world in which half the population suffer from shortage of food. Little wonder that Jesus should choose bread as the memorial sign of His presence and care in the world.
Although in our western society doctors more often ask patients to cut back on their intake of food and drink, Luke, the physician, is fascinated by food.
Every chapter of his gospel has mention of food and eating. It has been remarked that Luke presents Jesus either going to a table, at a table, or coming from a table. Robert J. Karris, in his book, Luke: Artist and Theologian, (Paulist Press), has a fascinating chapter on the theme of food.
The conception of Jesus in celebrated in the canticle of Mary as God filling the starving with good things. Then Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means the house of bread. His first cot was a feeding trough borrowed from animals.
Before commencing His public ministry He fasted for forty days. In fasting, He manifested His solidarity with the hungry of the world. He relied absolutely on the providence of the Father rather turn stones into bread. He responded to the tempter’s first attack that man does not live on bread alone. Thus He recognized the value of fasting in giving priority to the leading of the Spirit over the demands of the flesh. Later, however, Jesus was very critical of those who abused fasting as a way of winning the esteem of others.
There were meals of celebration, as in the house of Levi, and at the return of the prodigal son. And there were meals to relax with friends, as with Martha and Mary. There are several references to meals on the Sabbath, the day of rest.
Jesus was the guest who brought to the table more than He received. At various tables He brought pardon to the sinful woman, friendship to Zacchaeus and faith to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Much of His teaching was imparted at meals. There He drew attention to the foolish pride of those who vied for the places of honor at table. He taught that our tables should be anticipations of the final messianic banquet with special consideration being given to the beloved poor of God. Lazarus, the beggar at the gate, is the personification of God’s beloved poor.
Jesus told a story about God as the master who dons the apron to serve the faithful servant. And at the last supper Jesus moved among the apostles as one who serves.
The behavior of Jesus at table so challenged the accepted pious traditions that He drew condemnation upon His head. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. There was a loud complaint that He “welcomes sinners and cats with them.” Karris comes to the provocative conclusion that Jesus got Himself crucified by the way He ate.
When He taught His followers a prayer which would express their Christian identity, the petition for today’s needs is a request for bread. And Jesus arranged that the celebration of His memory would be in a meal: “Do this in memory of Me.” The risen Lord was recognized by two disciples at the breaking of bread. And would you believe what He asked of the dumbfounded apostles when He appeared to them in the Upper Room: “Have you anything here to eat?”
This theme of food continues into the Acts of the Apostles. The breaking of bread was one of the cornerstones of the early community. And when Peter was establishing his credentials as a witness his claim was: “We have eaten and drunk with Him after His resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 10:41).
The day when Jesus fed the multitude in the lonely place was lide a summary of His mission. He welcomed the crowds … even though they were wrecking His plans for a day of retreat with the apostles. He talked to them about the Kingdom of God. He brought healing to those who needed it. And He fed them in their hunger.
Bread is a symbol of the outreach of God to His children in welcome, enlightenment, healing and sustaining.
Note: Taken from Fr. Silvester O’Flynn OFMCap., THE GOOD NEWS OF LUKE’S YEAR, Dublin, Ireland: Cathedral Books/The Columbia Press, Revised Edition, 1991 (1994 reprinting), pages 111-113.
Jakarta, 2nd of June 2013
A Christian Pilgrim