Imagine back to New Year's Eve 2019. Can you recall where you were, with whom you celebrated or what you were thinking as midnight split the old year from the new? Did you set new year's resolutions or have high hopes and expectations for yourself and for your loved ones? Could you possibly have predicted where we would be six months later? I think not.
There are few people in the world today whose lives have not been turned upside-down by either the COVID-19 pandemic or by global protests against racism, or by both realities. Disruption has happened on an unprecedented scale, separating ("
") and breaking apart, bursting, forcibly separating ("
"). Six months from now, as we face another New Year's Eve, what will we remember?
Masks? Sheltering at home? Massive street protests? Looting? City curfews?
My hope is that from the vantage of the future we will look back on a point in time where a new world order began to emerge; that we will remember 2020 as the sacred moment when the global community raised its hand against systemic racism and declared,
I'm hoping we will tell stories of possibility--not once, but over and over again-- sharing what we have seen and heard that reflects the best in humanity. Perhaps we will remember the youth who have taken a prophetic lead in raising consciousness; or those police officers, military personnel, politicians and clergy who have taken a knee with them; or perhaps we will recall the reporters who placed themselves in danger to bring us the latest news live from the streets; or the martyrs who suffered grievous bodily injuries or even lost their lives because of their convictions. Then, too, I hope we will remember the resiliency with which ordinary people handled the restrictions of "sheltering-in place," as well as the heroism of medical personnel and other front-line responders ...
What would be tragic is if the world tries to return to "the old normal." That normal has already left us; what lies ahead has the potential to be infinitely better -- or so I believe.
PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool!
After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges."
I hope you find the Quiz useful!
Jesus said to the crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." Jn 6:51-58
Having crossed over the Red Sea to safety, the ancient Israelites immediately began to grumble:
"Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!"
(Ex 16:3). Instead of praising God for their deliverance, all they could think of was their stomachs. Symbolically speaking, this suggests that though they had left oppression behind them, the Israelite community still had a slave mentality. Preoccupied with their physical needs, they were incapable of faith, trust and gratitude; moreover, when God sent them manna in response to their complaints, many of them disobeyed instructions and hoarded it -- only to discover that it became "wormy and rotten." Moses himself indicated that his people's sufferings were tied to their waywardness: The lesson they were meant to learn was that one does not live by bread alone, "
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord"
When Jesus proclaims that he is "the Living Bread," he is careful to distinguish this bread from the manna that sustained the ancient Israelites during their forty years of wandering. It is interesting that the
Discourse on the Bread of Life
follows the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes (Jn 6:1-15) where Jesus feeds the crowd of 5,000 men, in addition to the women and children. Their bellies full, the people's response is to want to make him king; like their ancestors before them, they focus on the material, not the spiritual. As a result, they are incapable of understanding his message.
But are we that different from the hungry crowd? Are not our preoccupations often material in nature-- things and outcomes we need or desire? Don't we reduce our prayer to an endless litany of
? Just as the crowd wants immediate, unending gratification --"
Sir, give us this bread always
" (Jn 6:34)-- so do we, though we may not admit it.
Bread of Life
that Jesus offers is nothing less than the gift of his unending Presence. It is not a "thing" to be consumed but a state of being in which his life becomes our life, and his life in the Trinity becomes our life as well. Through the Eucharist, we are carried beyond both our ego needs and limited consciousness into the unending flow of all-inclusive Love; as our selfishness is burned away, our true self becomes the Christ-Self. But this is not just a "me and Jesus" experience. As our communal rituals remind us, we are a people in progress and we do not make the journey alone but together, as one. The Body of Christ is not the broken body of Jesus of Nazareth but the glorified body of the Risen Christ which extends across the globe, incorporating all people, embracing the highest heights and the deepest depths, reaching the most distant of galaxies while remaining as close to each of us as the beat of our heart.