Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Have you ever heard of comfort food? That’s the food that you associate with feeling safe and satisfied. It takes away the pain, the fear, the loneliness. In our family, we joke that the best place for comfort food is the Cracker Barrel: cinnamon fried apples, deep fried okra, biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak… In fact, on vacation just this last summer, we found a stretch of road that let us eat at three cracker barrels in two days. It was wonderful!
But did it really take our troubles away? We all know the answer to that. In fact, it’s usually also some of the worst food for us: full of fat and calories, low on nutrition. To live on comfort food isn’t good for your health!
It seems to me, though, that we live our lives eating a lot of figurative comfort food. We dine on wealth, or fame, or physical pleasures, or power, or knowledge, or relationships, or entertainment, or you name it. We eat in the hopes that it will satisfy a hunger deep inside us. But if we’re honest, we know it doesn’t. That’s because that longing is actually a longing for God.
In many ways, that’s part of what Lent is about. Lent can expose us where we are seeking the satisfaction and comfort that only God can give us. This beautiful collect, drawing upon Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, invites us to truly satisfy our hunger.
That teaching came after the feeding of the five thousand. After literally filling their bellies, the people wanted more food. Like so many today, they believed that if they could just feed their bodily appetites, they would be happy. But Jesus wanted them to see more. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
The true bread that satisfies us is given through Jesus’ flesh offered on the Cross. Our longings are satisfied as we accept the precious gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for ourselves, even into ourselves. When we surrender ourselves to Him, Jesus teaches us that we are, by the Holy Spirit, united to Him. He dwells in us, and we in Him. This relationship, this union with Christ, is what salvation is all about.
But there are many who believe that Jesus is also making an allusion to the Eucharist in this discourse. We are, Jesus tells us, to eat His flesh and drink His blood. For myself, I think there are enough hints in the passage to think that Jesus did indeed have the Eucharist in mind. It actually makes good sense, for in the Eucharist, we are proclaiming Christ’s sacrificial death that gives salvation. In the Eucharist, we receive into ourselves, our souls and bodies, the life-giving presence and power of Jesus.
Jesus is the ultimate comfort food. He is the One who, alone, can satisfy our deep hunger for life. But when we stop and think about it, comfort food didn’t just happen on its own. We developed a taste for it. By eating comfort food and feeling comforted, we began to make an association. Could it be that we can do the same with Jesus?
The more we come to Jesus, the true bread, the more we will experience true life. The more we experience true life, the more we will hunger for Jesus. But in order to eat true bread, we must stop eating all the false breads. That’s one of the reasons why the Eucharist is so important! When we gather together to hear God’s Word and be fed by the very presence of Jesus in the sacrament, we are being fed by Jesus and, at the same time, developing a taste for Him!
What has this Lent shown you about your spiritual diet, about where you seek life outside of Jesus? Develop a taste for the true and ultimate comfort food: Jesus. When you do, the prayer, “evermore give us this bread,” will truly be yours. The funny thing is, when Jesus satisfies your deepest longing for life, all the other comfort foods taste even better because true comfort is already yours.