Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Am the Bread of Life.  We hear these words of Jesus this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time and, whenever I take these words to heart, I’m reminded of Clee Brown; long-time member of this parish and mother of Jean Hartwich.

Clee, now at home with God, passed away while I was living monastic life.  However, I got to know her during my first stint here; in 1980 when sent here following ordination.  Each First Friday I brought her the Eucharist.  During our visits she would talk about family and old times.  Our times together nurtured me as the Eucharist nurtured her.

When she died, her family sent me the memorial card and program from the funeral Mass.  On the front was a photo of Clee’s hands kneading dough and taken by her granddaughter, Mary.  Beneath was the caption:  “I Am the Bread of Life.”  Clee had the practice of making her own bread; the scent of which would often fill her house during my visits.  The image of her hands kneading dough and joined to Christ’s words spoke, not only of her habit of making bread.  It imaged her capacity to ‘feed’ others by her presence.  Presence teaches more than words.  Clee did so for me.  It’s the way we’re called to teach one another.  Often, words ring hollow when not substantiated by presence.  When Jesus says, “I Am the Bread of Life” He is saying, with words and in a way that reaches beyond, that the deeper hunger inside each of us is only  fed by   presence.  And, mysteriously, this happens whenever we approach the Eucharist—His Flesh and Blood existence—with faith; with that hunger God kneads into being.

Do we allow the yeast of grace and Christ’s own life to take hold of us and change us?  Do we want to become what we eat and so find ourselves more present to one another, and to life?  By making Himself a staple ingredient for belief, Christ chooses to extend the gift of self into time and so encounter that starved nature inside us all.

With this in mind, I recall a passage from May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude” which helps bring this closer to home.   Through the experience of a starved cat at her back door Sarton’s reminded how life is about “making space for that intense, hungry face at the window, starved cat, starved person.  It is making space to be there.”  And she writes:

Lately a small tabby cat has come every day and stared at me with a strange, intense look.  Of course I put food out, night and morning.  She is so terrified that she runs away at once when I open the door, but she comes back to eat ravenously as soon as I disappear.  Yet her hunger is clearly not only for food.  I long to take her in my arms…

Will she ever become tame enough for that, to give in to what she longs to have?  (p.57)

When Jesus says, “I Am the Bread of Life” He is making space to be there for us, revealing that our “hunger is clearly not only for food.” Are we willing to become what we eat; making space for others—space to be there—and as our faith moves us beyond words into presence?

Father Tim Clark, Pastor


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