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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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Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions: This first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After Baptism at the age of 15, Andrew traveled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital. Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged 45. 
<p>Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for bringing taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883. </p><p>When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: 47 women, 45 men. </p><p>Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death. </p><p>Today, there are almost 5.1 million Catholics in Korea.</p> American Catholic Blog We never think of connecting violence with our tongues. But the first weapon, the most cruel weapon, is the tongue. Examine what part your tongue has played in creating peace or violence. We can really wound a person, we can kill a person, with our tongue.

 
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