As Basic as Bread
“Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:35
There are few things we share more with the peoples who have walked this earth than bread. Think of all the grains, rice, seeds, and nuts that have been pounded, pressed, baked, and broken to sustain us. Bread means life. Even flakes on the ground kept the Jewish people alive in the desert. No wonder God comes into our midst as the living bread.
The living bread faces stiff competition. A slang term for money is bread. To have no bread means you are broke. Nowadays, money appears as the power that sustains us. After all, with money we can buy almost anything. “You’ll find all your needs up on the shelves.” Even those who bake bread first go shopping. Most don’t look out their back window upon a field of grain. Our hands get dirty doing other things.
That was the lesson of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s story. The old cardinal arrested Jesus when he returned to heal the sick one more time. Jesus’ crime was that he calls us to a life of freedom and love that is too difficult for ordinary people. The Church stopped following Jesus long ago, says the cardinal. Instead, religion gives people what they most need: authority, security, world-dominion, proof, and plenty of pomp. Jesus sinned by not heeding the devil in the desert. If he truly loved humanity, he should have turned those rocks into bread. Only real bread, not spirit, brings happiness.
There are many kinds of hunger. Starving people need food, clean water, medicine, schools, and jobs. The Grand Inquisitor is right, this bread truly matters. But it is not enough. When our cupboards and coffers are full, yearning does not cease. We still wonder: what really matters? What do I believe in? What do I trust? Whom do I love? What may I hope for? What is just? What do I live and die for?
The young Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen with satisfaction. Little did he realize that something of Stephen would rise within him. The seed was already growing.
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