Today (Saturday, January 22) marks the fifth day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayers are offered for readers’ reflection. (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)
Day 5, Devoted themselves… to the breaking of bread
Exodus 16:13b-21a, It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.
Psalm 116:12-14,16-18, I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 11:17-18, 23-26, Do this in remembrance of me.
John 6:53-58, This is the bread that came down from heaven.
For Christians the sharing of bread traditionally speaks of friendship, forgiveness and commitment to the other. We are challenged in this breaking of bread to seek a unity that can speak prophetically to a world of divisions. In the breaking of bread Christians are formed anew for the prophetic message of hope for all humankind.
Today we, too, break bread “with glad and generous hearts”; but we also experience, at each celebration of the Eucharist, a painful reminder of our disunity. Exodus relates how God responded to the grumbling of the people he had liberated by providing them with what they needed. The manna in the desert is a gift of God, not to be hoarded, nor even fully understood. It is, as our Psalm celebrates, a moment which calls simply for thanksgiving, for God “has loosened our bonds.”
What St. Paul recognizes is that to break the bread means not only to celebrate the Eucharist, but to be a eucharistic people, to become Christ’s Body in the world. St. Paul’s words (1 Corinthians 10-11) serve as a reminder of how the Christian community is to live. We live “in remembrance of him.”
As the reading from St. John teaches us, as a people of the breaking of bread, we are a people of eternal life — life in its fullness. Our celebration of Eucharist challenges us to reflect on how such an abundant gift of life is expressed day to day as we live in hope as well as in difficulties.
God of Hope, we praise you for your gift to us of the Lord’s Supper, where, in the Spirit, we continue to meet your Son, the living bread from heaven. We pray that you will hasten the day when your whole church together shares the breaking of the bread. As we wait for that day may we learn more deeply to be a people formed by the Eucharist for service to the world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.