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Bible Reflections View Comments

Bread for Today, Bread for Eternity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 5, 2012
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More often than not, we come to the Sunday Scriptures with mundane matters weighing us down. We might be struggling with family issues, job issues, broken lives, forsaken dreams. We half-listen to words that seem to belong to another people, another time, a more exalted spiritual realm than our own piece of earth.

And then today we hear the Israelites in the desert saying, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!” We understand their longing for the good old days. We feel their desperation as they realize they’ve embarked on an arduous journey to something new and unknown. As the road becomes long, even endless, their slavery in Egypt seems less oppressive. At least they had enough to eat. And more, they had the varied food of the fertile Egyptian fields. Freedom has lost some of its luster, obscured by the desert sand. For us, too, embracing risk seems unthinkable, unwise, impossible, even when we have an inkling that our lives would be better for it.

Each of us has an Egypt in our life, that place where life seems easier, where the difficulties can be glossed over with something that deadens the pain and obscures the real price. We look back to previous jobs, wrong relationships, dysfunctional family situations, and a host of other times and places that look rosier in hindsight than they were in reality.

Every day we fight the struggle between Egypt and the desert. We stay just comfortable enough that we don’t need to make the difficult decisions that can lead to real freedom, that can lead to the promised land. One thing that characterizes most of our Egypts: Someone else is responsible for our pain, for our actions, for our decisions. Slavery comes in many guises.

Dreams of the future can be as beguiling—and as unrealistic—as memories of the past. In the Gospel, the crowds around Jesus are dazzled by his multiplying the loaves and fishes. Their lives, like ours, are filled with the daily demands of keeping food on their tables and a roof over their heads. When someone comes along who seems to offer them freedom from that daily grind, the impulse to follow is irresistible. How many of us play the lottery hoping for just such a break?

Jesus recognizes that most of the people have followed him simply because they’ve eaten their fill and want more. He knows he will need to lead them to a place much more challenging in order to give them the great gift of eternal life. Working for the kingdom can be even more demanding that merely working for daily bread. But it can be difficult to make that leap of faith.

The Scriptures make it clear that God always calls us forward. Going back is never an option. When we’re tempted to settle for less, we need to hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” We might not have the material success of our friends. We might not have a career filled with intellectual challenges and the world’s recognition. We might not have endlessly varied entertainments. But if we trust Jesus’s words, we will never be alone. God is with us, even—especially— in the desert. And God always leads us to new life, even if it seems like a risk at the time.



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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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