Bread That Gives Life
In this beautiful homily for Corpus Christi, Year A, Father Hanly helps us understand the meaning and importance of the Living Bread.
Readings for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year A
- First Reading: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
- Second Reading: First Corinthians 10:16-17
- Gospel: John 6:51-58
Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, or better known as the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Today’s homily will be in three parts. The first one is called “the famine,” the second is “the living bread,” and the third and final segment is “saving the world.”
We begin with the Famine.
As you probably remember in the country of Ethiopia during the three years of famine from 1984 to 1986, over one million Ethiopians died of hunger. And during that terrible time, the well-known Cardinal Hume of Westminster Cathedral in London made a pastoral visitation there. Upon his return to England, he told the following story and these are his words:
“On one occasion, I boarded a helicopter that flew me to a mountain settlement high up in the hills where people were starving and waiting for food, food which perhaps was never to arrive.
“When I stepped out of the helicopter, a little boy of ten ran up to me and took hold of my hand. He wore only a loin cloth around his waist. And for the whole time I was there, he would not let go of my hand.
“As we walked around the settlement, the boy never spoke a word. But where so ever we stopped to talk to a group of people, he would raise his free hand and point to his mouth. And with the other hand, he lifted mine and rubbed it gently up and down his own cheek.
“I was terribly moved. He was an orphan boy, lost and starving who had managed, with two simple gestures, to express our deepest hungers as human beings, namely our hunger for food and our hunger for love. I have never forgotten this incident,” continued the Cardinal.
“And to this day, I wonder if that little child is still alive. I do remember, however, that as I boarded the helicopter to leave this tragic place, I turned back and looked down and saw the boy, standing there, gazing up at me with eyes of sadness and reproach.”
The second part of today’s homily is also about food. The Cardinal speaks of “living bread.”
Jesus says to the people who come to him hungry…
Hungry for what? Hungry for another miracle, another multiplication of loaves?
But Jesus said to them: “I am the living bread. He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never thirst. He who eats of this bread will live forever.”
The bread that Jesus gives them is not just food for the body, but food for their hearts and for their souls. This bread brings everlasting life, for Jesus is speaking the words that come from God Himself.
And even more, Jesus is offering us the gift of himself. He comes to us, never to leave us. He will be with us always.
At the Last Supper, he also says to his disciples: “Take this bread and eat of it, for this is my body.” “This is me. This is my own self which is to be broken for you on the cross, but rises again into new and everlasting life!”
And then he takes the wine, the wine which he blesses and offers to us all, “This is my blood, poured out for each and every one of you.”
Thus he offers his life for us. And they are the same words that we use today and whenever we gather together each Sunday. As Jesus himself reminds us, “Whenever you do these things, do them in remembrance of me.”
To take this bread, then, is to receive Jesus into our lives and into our hearts where he becomes one with us and makes us one with him; uniting us with his Father and with the Holy Spirit, in a Holy Communion of mutual and everlasting love.
Finally, our third part of this “trinity of love”: “saving the world.”
Such lovely words, so full of hope and promise. It’s almost enough to help us forget the pain, the pain of the hungry boy and the shame of the kindly Cardinal, he who would carry with him for all his remaining life, the sad and reproachful reflection in the little boy’s eyes.
Know that the Cardinal could not stay, but neither would the Cardinal ever forget. And wherever he went, he would tell the story of what he himself had witnessed – the famine and the boy, who in the moment of great anguish and distress of his people, reminded the Cardinal of life’s most terrible truth – without bread and without love, we cannot survive.
And so on this Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we hear him call: “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”