WHENCE CAN ONE GIVE THEM THEIR FILL OF BREAD HERE IN THE WILDERNESS? How often we find our self in situations where this same question imposes itself on our consciousness! At each stage of the human life-cycle there are periods, and often enough extended periods, when we experience life as a spiritual and emotional wilderness. No adult with any broad experience of life will contest this assertion, and still less will the more aged. Anyone who knows how to observe young children closely and does so for some prolonged time will discover how readily their mood passes into a melancholy that accompanies a strong sense of being emotionally isolated. In adolescents it is this sense that life is an unchartered wilderness, with no path that leads to happiness for any length of time, that impels so many to the indiscriminate search for acceptance that proves often to be frustrating before long.
And so the question arises time and again in life "WHENCE CAN ONE GIVE THEM THEIR FILL OF BREAD HERE IN THE WILDERNESS?" In today's Gospel Jesus answers this question, not with words, but rather by a striking demonstration of divine power. He blesses bread and multiplies it by his word, providing all that his guests desire, and more besides. "They ate and were filled and there were seven baskets of pieces of bread left over." Already in the time of Moses God had given a similar sign to his people, by providing manna in the desert. Jesus here reveals that he has free exercise of that same power; indeed, he possesses it more strikingly for at his mere word the bread and fish he blesses is made to multiply beyond need.
The word of God is itself a nourishment for our soul and when we take it in with faith proves to provide the strength we need to undertake our journey back home to the Father's house. It is especially available to us at times when we experience life as a wilderness interiorly, a place of confusion and weariness. This divine word also serves as a light for our steps that marks out a path that leads to our destined home.
Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, we are reminded by these reflections that he was so appreciative of the power of the inspired word that he spoke of it as a deificum lumen, that is, a light that transforms us into a godlike creature. When the words spoken by Jesus at the last supper are pronounced over the bread at the Eucharist in the form of a consecrating blessing, they contribute to this transformation as they bring us the living Lord with his strength and solace so that we regain direction and courage upon eating it. Let us walk in the strength of this bread with confidence along the path illuminated by the word of God, grateful for the food of life that gives the light of hope to those who receive it, and turns melancholy into joy at the presence of the Lord who alone can satisfy our desire with his abundance of life.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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