That Which Will Rise
Written by: Megan Bensley
I have no idea what was said in today’s homily, despite the fact that Fr. Jerry is a charismatic speaker who tastefully balances theological weight with entertaining narrative tidbits. I was admittedly distracted by, or let me say, focused on, Jesus’ words to the crowd in Capernaum: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6: 34-35). In true Ignatian style, I let my imagination begin to run wild as my own homily formed in my head:
Some Biblical lines I am simply unable to speak. I am unable to simply hear them, unable to simply read them, and unable to simply write them. Just like a child who breaks into song when asked to recite the alphabet, music begins to cascade through my brain when I hear certain cherished lines: “I am the bread of life,” “We are many parts,” and “You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,” to name a few. No sooner did Fr. Jerry speak the words “I am the bread of life…” and my foot began tapping as my fingers leafed through the missalette, hoping find that the posted Communion hymn matched the rhythm that was now pulsing through my entire body. To my delight, #338 was in sync with the tune that was being carried through my veins.
When I was 10 years-old or so, I was sitting in church listening to the same rendition of “I Am the Bread of Life” when the significance of the word “raise” became clear to me. Prior to that day the song solely evoked images of bread raising, a familiar sight in my home when I was a kid. My mom baked rolls and birthday cakes, my dad decorated the cakes and rolled up loaves of cinnamon swirl bread, and my brother twisted dough into pretzel knots. I, too, had a knack for the art of baking and found much joy in the kitchen standing in front of the oven waiting for the bread to rise. So, imagine me, at 10 years-old, in my saddle shoes and well-pressed dress, listening to this song and humming along with the lyrics “I am the bread of life; you who come to me shall not hunger…” and then the next notch: “And I will RAAAAAAAAAISE you up!” I’ll never forget that day when I realized that “raise” did not just refer to bread rising (as it had quite simply meant to me previously) but, “raise” also referred to Jesus’ promise to be take care of us, to lift us up. It was one of those “Eureka” episodes, an “A-ha” moment. I like to compare the feeling to being a struggling high school calculus student with fleeting nano-seconds of profound understanding into the meaning behind differentiation and integration.
Bread Rising = Christ Raising. Man, did I feel smart.
I stared at Fr. Jerry, behind the ambo, who was surely helping his parishioners connect their heads and their hearts through his reflection on John’s Gospel. But I was more interested in sitting with the memory of myself at 10 years-old and my realization of, and appreciation for, religion-infused baking. My homily continues…
The act of baking is really all about sharing what one set of hands has prepared with a group, a community, of others. Whether it’s dinner rolls with the family, birthday cakes with the grandkids, doughnuts with the office staff, or a summer pie during a picnic in the park, one set of hands has prepared what many come together to share. Isn’t that what Christ does for us each and every Sunday? We gather together, around a table, as friends, as family, as believers, to eat together what Christ has prepared with his own hands, his own body providing the sacred ingredients. We stand before God with outstretched hands asking for this unleavened promise. We mumble “Amen” as individuals, before resuming our seats next to one another as one congregation. Together, we savor the taste of love that fills our hearts after eating the bread God has made for us. And as we sit in silence, we thank God for this taste, this nourishment, this gift of Life.
On this weekend after the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, I am reminded of just how grateful I am for the Society of Jesus and the charisms of Ignatian spirituality that have been truly life-giving to me. Ignatian spirituality has taught me how to run with my imagination, (occasionally giving my own homily in my head is allowed!), “work for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27), and share my gifts with others in both humility and creativity, trusting that one day I too will be “raised up.” I’m off to do some baking while whistling the tune of #338.
Photo: “Basket of freshly baked breads, croissants + pastries” by “Sifu Renka” from Flickr (Used under Creative Commons license)