The bread of life

Matthew 14:14-22

We often believe that the Church focuses very little or not at all on this earthly life and that it only teaches us and directs us towards the life after death. This is simply not true. The Church is against any exclusiveness and condemns all extremes.

We can glean from Gospel reading that Christ, along with His apostles, cares and feeds the multitudes that follow Him and listen to Him. He feeds them earthly food.

One evening the apostles came to Christ and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” And Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Then the disciples said, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes. (Matthew 14:14-19) And St. Luke comments that Jesus told the apostles to make the people sit in groups of fifty (Luke 9:14) in order to make it easier to share the food between all. Both Matthew and Luke witness that “they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.” (Matthew 14:20

Neither Christ nor the Apostles ignore the human need for food and drink for the sustenance of life which God Himself ordered. He Himself give us an abundance of food (Job 36:31) “All wait for You that You may give them their food in due season.” (Psalm 104:27). God so ordered that everything that moves and lives serve for food and He gave it all, as it is written in he Scriptures, as “green grass.” (Genesis 9;3) God created food for the faithful to partake of it with thankfulness. (1 Timothy 4:3) St. Paul writes to Timothy that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

God even permits us moderate enjoyment of food and drink. For, as King David sing in his psalm that is read at every evening service, “wine makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:15) In another psalm, King David says that “fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.” (Psalm 107:17-18) In all, “the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him, He will ever be mindful of His covenant.” (Psalm 111:4-5

However, there are things that are far more important than food and clothing – the soul of each and every one of us. (Luke 12:23) The human soul is most valuable and most important, yet we so often forget it. Food and clothing should not be our priority, but the salvation of our souls. Christ performed a miracle for the salvation of those five thousand people. He fed them in a most miraculous way in order for them to be able to relish His divine teaching instead of wandering from village to village looking for food, or to hear their stomachs grumble. This is a lesson that teaches us all that food is only a means to sustain life, not a goal to which everything else in life must be subject

Christ is very clear when He commands us: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on him.” (John 6:27) In another place, Christ answers our potential question as to what everlasting life might be and says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3

The Lord Jesus Christ says of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) And He also says, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35

Moses was led and guided by the hand of God. For forty years he led the Hebrews through the desert, a dry and arid place where not even a blade of grass could survive. Yet the people of God neither hungered nor thirsted, for God sent them manna from heaven, a special kind of food that nourished them. Christ also said, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead.” (John 6:49) Of Himself, He says, “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51

We understand that Christ is referring to holy communion here. Holy Communion is the best means for our physical and mental health, for our salvation. When we take holy communion, we take none other than God Himself into us. I believe that none of us is fully aware just how much honour God bestows upon us in His mercy and love

Holy liturgy together with the sacrament of communion as its pinnacle ought to be the centre and the basis of our lives, the criterion of our faith and orthodoxy. It is through holy communion, the living fountain of life, that we receive the Most Holy One into our bodies and in this way we are united with God. This should be the priority in our lives. Everything else must be secondary, and serve this purpose.

And so, if holy communion is our food, the food of everlasting love, is it enough, and can it be enough to take it only twice or three times a year, or as some do, once or maybe even never?

Let us hear the word of God relevant to this. “Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” (John 6:53-55

Now we understand what is important for us Christians and what is not. Let us not forget that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17) and that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)