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Bible Reflections View Comments

Bread for Today, Bread for Eternity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 5, 2012
Click here to email! Email | Click here to print! Print | Size: A A |  
 

More often than not, we come to the Sunday Scriptures with mundane matters weighing us down. We might be struggling with family issues, job issues, broken lives, forsaken dreams. We half-listen to words that seem to belong to another people, another time, a more exalted spiritual realm than our own piece of earth.

And then today we hear the Israelites in the desert saying, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!” We understand their longing for the good old days. We feel their desperation as they realize they’ve embarked on an arduous journey to something new and unknown. As the road becomes long, even endless, their slavery in Egypt seems less oppressive. At least they had enough to eat. And more, they had the varied food of the fertile Egyptian fields. Freedom has lost some of its luster, obscured by the desert sand. For us, too, embracing risk seems unthinkable, unwise, impossible, even when we have an inkling that our lives would be better for it.

Each of us has an Egypt in our life, that place where life seems easier, where the difficulties can be glossed over with something that deadens the pain and obscures the real price. We look back to previous jobs, wrong relationships, dysfunctional family situations, and a host of other times and places that look rosier in hindsight than they were in reality.

Every day we fight the struggle between Egypt and the desert. We stay just comfortable enough that we don’t need to make the difficult decisions that can lead to real freedom, that can lead to the promised land. One thing that characterizes most of our Egypts: Someone else is responsible for our pain, for our actions, for our decisions. Slavery comes in many guises.

Dreams of the future can be as beguiling—and as unrealistic—as memories of the past. In the Gospel, the crowds around Jesus are dazzled by his multiplying the loaves and fishes. Their lives, like ours, are filled with the daily demands of keeping food on their tables and a roof over their heads. When someone comes along who seems to offer them freedom from that daily grind, the impulse to follow is irresistible. How many of us play the lottery hoping for just such a break?

Jesus recognizes that most of the people have followed him simply because they’ve eaten their fill and want more. He knows he will need to lead them to a place much more challenging in order to give them the great gift of eternal life. Working for the kingdom can be even more demanding that merely working for daily bread. But it can be difficult to make that leap of faith.

The Scriptures make it clear that God always calls us forward. Going back is never an option. When we’re tempted to settle for less, we need to hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” We might not have the material success of our friends. We might not have a career filled with intellectual challenges and the world’s recognition. We might not have endlessly varied entertainments. But if we trust Jesus’s words, we will never be alone. God is with us, even—especially— in the desert. And God always leads us to new life, even if it seems like a risk at the time.



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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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