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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
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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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