The bread of my hometown
Most everyone has their own favorite version of bread. I remember loving the fresh-baked loaves from the ovens of DiCamillo Bakery in Niagara Falls, NY when I was a kid. Moving to the South, we never were able to find anything to match up to the flavor and texture of DiCamillo’s. Every trip to visit family in Niagara to this day includes a pilgrimage to one of their stores.There are times when we sat and ate slices in the car because we could not wait. I have loaded it onto carry-on luggage. After I was married, my mother used to bring some with her on visits for us to stock in our freezer. Imagine the excitement when the company started shipping their products. My sister and I, who live out-of-town, have souvenir cookie canisters. Evidently we were not the only ones who loved their products.
In search of bagels
Somewhere along the line, I also developed a passion for bagels. Unfortunately this began when I lived in a town that did not have a bagel shop. So whenever I went on trips, I tried to get bagels. This was years before I eventually moved to Chicago where bagel franchises are on every block. Interestingly, now flooded with lots of bagels, I now have difficulty chewing them. The aging process has led to the development of arthritis in my jaw. Professional dental advice was to limit bagel consumption as to not aggravate my mandible joint. Life is full of ironies. When I was young with a healthy jaw there were no bagels. Now with bagels galore– no jaw. One would think that through this process I would waste away to nothing.
Homemade Southern bread
I remember the time my husband’s stepmother made homemade bread. My husband’s father was from the mountains of Tennessee where everything homemade was a way of life. His stepmother patiently showed me the process of preparing the yeast and letting the dough rise. It seemed like an all-day affair; however, the results were well worth the effort. I tried to duplicate it on occasion with some success. I still have the instruction sheet buried somewhere. However I am much better at quick breads made with mammoth-sized zucchini or banana. But come to think of it, I have not been making much bread lately.
My attempt at gluten-free
Then there is the gluten-free phase of my life. I heard from somewhere that avoiding all gluten would help reduce my joint pains. So for about a month my family and I went on a gluten fast. I bought a half a dozen gluten-free cookbooks and whipped up all sorts of concoctions. My husband bought frozen gluten-free blocks of bread that could be used as a bricks for the foundation of our next house. My kids hated every moment of it. This only lasted for about a month. I never noticed any change in myself. Fortunately I did not have Crohn’s disease or an actual wheat allergy, so I decided to discontinue this particular diet. My kids cheered. To this day, they cringe at the sight of me even touching a box of anything labeled “gluten-free.” They would rather eat the cardboard box. My heart goes out to those who actually do have gluten sensitivity. I know some people who do get gravely ill from eating any type of wheat.
One does not live on bread alone.
Fortunately we do not live on bread alone. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells the crowd, I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.(Jn 6:35).
This is the spiritual Bread for the journey of life.
What is unique about this particular Bread is that it is actually Jesus’ own Body that believers can receive at Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately people didn’t understand what He was talking about back in the days of the Gospel. And today a lot of people, even some Catholics, still don’t understand what He was talking about.
Learning about the Bread of Life is actually what led to my conversion to the Catholic Church. When a validly ordained priest says the words of the consecration in the Eucharist the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Even though it looks like bread and wine, it is really the Body and Blood of Jesus. This process is referred to as transubstantiation.
This is our food for the journey as Christians. It gives us spiritual strength to go the miles we have in life. When we are in the trenches and feel like we are at our last straw, Jesus’ Bread can help us along. Not only help but make the difference. The results are full of grace and miraculous. It is a spiritual delight. And it is available everyday at Mass. Unfortunately many don’t receive the Body and Blood of Jesus even on Sunday. So in essence they are starving themselves spiritually. Sometimes it is through no fault of their own, they might not have never heard of this or been taught the Truth. Even many Catholic school and catechized Christians have been ill-formed. Of course, one can’t be accountable for what they do not know. At other times, it is because of one’s choice to live a life away from the Church, even though they do know better.
Bread from Heaven shadowed in the Old Testament.
God feeding His people with Bread from Heaven was foreshadowed in the Old Testament when the grumbling Israelites under the leadership of Moses received Manna in the desert (Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15). How many of us are still in the desert of our own lives, mumbling like crazy? The irony is that God does provide. The crowd in the Gospel says, “Sir, give us this Bread always.” (Jn 6:34). And he does provide abundantly at every Mass.
My favorite kind of bread
Yeah, I still love DiCamillos for physical sustenance. But for spiritual strength, I now have a new kind of favorite Bread. Fortunately, I don’t have to travel so far. It’s at my local parish. Even though my journey to God continues to take my lifetime, I have something to help me along.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.? So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:24-35).