We all know the fruits of our forgetfulness. We promise to take care of something, even as mundane as stopping after work to get milk for the morning coffee or a loaf of fresh bread for the next day’s breakfast or lunch. We easily become distracted at the last moment. The promise is broken. We’re embarrassed . . . like the guys in the boat on their way to Bethsaida.
That the disciples had only a single loaf for their day’s journey wasn’t really the issue for Jesus. He could always pull another miraculous loaf out of God’s love if needed. He didn’t chide or berate them for their forgetfulness or their distracted departure from the shore. What he did do—and perhaps often did—was to take advantage of a teachable moment. After all, bread had always been a symbol for nourishment but also for money and a host of other daily needs. Suddenly the leavened loaf became a chosen image for one’s attitude, way of life, or basic point of view. Herod’s bread was what nourished him day in and day out, what kept him going and gave him energy for the tedious royal work of his day. Be careful of it, warned Jesus, because it could feed the wrong passions and only increase one’s selfishness or futile sense of political power.
We become what we eat . . . spiritually as well as physically. Eat soured bitter bread and become a disgruntled bitter person. But choose the Eucharist and we might even give ourselves away as Jesus himself did—to the needs of the poor, to the desperate desires of the lonely, or to everyone’s dreams of the Kingdom.