In the 1st reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we read that “a reverent fear” overtook Jesus’ first followers. I believe they remembered their brother Jesus in the breaking of the bread and for those who knew him in the flesh, who walked with him in this life; there was the sense and deep belief that they must become his body, so to speak, “be bread”—be sustenance as he was, for their world. Perhaps that is where the “reverent fear” came from—they realized what they had been entrusted with! The fact that they were attracting people every day as the Scriptures said tells us with certainty that they had become that “bread” that fed others—with justice, mercy, love, compassion, joy and peace.
We cannot lose sight of this, my friends—the community would only see Jesus if they saw him through them—through the way each lived, through the ways they nourished—were, in fact, bread to each other—through the ways in which they truly followed their brother, Jesus. Now whether they truly understood this concept of being bread for their world, we don’t know, but they did live as though they understood! This is our task as well. Jesus began things—we must continue what he began—this is the only thing that gives us the privilege of calling ourselves his followers—that we do our best to live like him.
We might contrast the wonderful scene depicted in Acts of these first Christians, with our Church communities today. Each year when we read in the Easter Season how they chose to live their lives, we are amazed with the seeming goodness of it all. The trend in Catholic and Protestant churches alike in present times is not “adding” new members each day, but “losing” them. We might ponder why that is.
I believe another aspect of each of us being “bread” for our world can be found in that first reading from Acts. We believe Luke to be the author of the Acts of the
Apostles and he tells us that among other things; they broke bread, “in their homes.” “Breaking the bread” I believe speaks to a greater task that each of us is called to—we must “break ourselves open”—we must “open ourselves up” to others, to our world. We must listen to others, hear their stories, understand what their lives consist of, and find within that interaction a place to bring Jesus’ love, his light, and his peace. That is how we become “bread.”
Having just completed Holy Week, it is good I believe to look again at what these mysteries mean to us, what it is we actually believe. Because depending on what we say we believe, signals what we do next.
We all were taught in our early years the theology that Jesus came to take on the sins (our sins) of the world. He died to save us and we all grew up loving him for this ultimate gift. But now that we are grown, it is time for us to look at this theology again. Many who have studied this theology, Diarmuid O’Murchu among them have stated, that what is more important for us to focus on is the idea that Jesus LIVED for us—he came, not to die, but to live! If we allow Jesus to be our scapegoat as many so-called followers of Jesus do, then that takes the responsibility off of us to really be followers of this man from Nazareth. If humanity was so awful that God “needed” Jesus’ brutal death to make up for our transgressions, then what does that say about us the people whom God created—further, what does it say about God?
If we can simply realize and accept that Jesus paid the price for his life as a prophet, then we can get on with our task, in his footsteps, of being prophets too, to our world that is so in need of the message of love, care, mercy and justice that we have been entrusted to bring to it, each and every day.
Again, we must remember that our world will only know Jesus to the extent that we “break open ourselves” and emulate him in our very own lives. Will this always be easy? No, probably not! Just like Thomas in today’s gospel, we have trouble believing and maybe not so much “believing,” but we experience his fear for “what comes next.” If Jesus has truly risen and we believe it, then our next move is clear—we must go out and live a life that is indicative of that belief.
We are all alleluia people because we believe in a God who has loved us so much as to send us our brother Jesus who truly showed us the way. We shouldn’t fear the task ahead, that of living out our belief because Jesus told us not to fear, but to have peace. Easter, which proclaims that Jesus has risen, gives us the strength, all that we need in fact, to be bread for our world.
Joan Chittister in her Monastery Almanac, for Easter week calls our attention to the fact that Easter is not just about Jesus’ resurrection, but it is equally about our own “resurrections,” as Jesus’ followers. She says Mary of Magdala rose again, this time as a disciple. The apostles rose again, this time with courage and purpose. Finally, she asks us, what needs to be resurrected in each of us to save our world, to make life better for those with whom we share this planet? I can think of so much in our present day for each of us to be about in this regard.
The resurrection of Jesus was just the beginning friends—each of us are called to do our part—that is what following Jesus is really all about and until we resurrect that part within ourselves that is ours to do, the resurrection will be incomplete. People will know that Jesus has truly risen when they see the fruits of justice, mercy, kindness, goodness and love within us. May God bless us all as we strive to be this new, resurrected people!