Fr. John Barry     Introduction

My first religious joke I ever told, maybe when I was seven, was when I heard the Bible reading that was proclaimed in our Mass today:  “Man cannot live by bread alone.”  I heard a teacher or someone say that and ask us what we thought of it.  “Man cannot live by bread alone.”  I quipped, “No, he needs peanut butter and jelly to go on that bread!”

I am glad I got a laugh from it from others, but I also heard a simple lesson, that man, woman or child cannot just live on physical things—but that we need a spiritual life with God, and of love, and of a high purpose in life.  Man needs to live on God’s gifts, too, not just the ones of the world that God gave, like food, or clothes, or stuff—but on God’s grace or life inside of us.

Amen to that lesson.

Homily So that’s what Jesus means when He says He is the Bread of Life.  He is God’s gift come down to us.  He knows we need the baptized life of His goodness in us, to bring our souls to life.

God also knows we do need basic things in this life on earth, like water, life, air, bread.  Jesus is God the Son become a human person, and He lived on things like bread. He knows this. So He wanted to combine our need for holiness with our daily need for things like food.  He became the Gift of Eucharist. It gives us a little food, but a lot of Jesus in the Gift, the Blessed Sacrament.

Back in the time of Abraham, in the Old Testament, they began to celebrate the holiness of life by a ritual of bread and wine. God was giving that model, and blessing it.  Back in the time of Moses, after the Exodus, they remembered their Passover by a  bread ceremony commemorating the little manna that had kept the people alive in the desert wilderness journey. God was giving that model to the Jews again, and they had Passover each year, including the year and day that Jesus was the head of the table of a Passover meal on which we now call Holy Thursday. He took bread, blessed it, and passed it, saying Take this all of you, This is My Body.  God again was giving this model, but now to all the world, as we Catholics have been asked to pray and offer it around the world and through time. God is in the Bread as Sacrament, as a very presence way to be with us in life, and bless us. “I Am the Living Bread,” He said.  “I Am”—the title of God– and then He added—“The Living Bread,” meaning as giving us a new Passover bread of a New Covenant, to give us His life into us, even when we know of ourselves as unworthy.  Then still, because of Who Jesus Is, as an Inviting One, like as our Bread of New Friendship with God, we request of Jesus, in our pre-Communion prayer: that He “but say the Word, and I shall be healed, or your servant may be healed.”   We want a Bread of Life healing. We need the Bread of Holiness. Jesus with  us. That’s Holy Communion.  We must live on Jesus.

Man now can live by the Bread of Life, not things alone, or regular bread alone, but by God’s blessing to our lives, as He has planned, from the Last Supper on to us.

Jesus is so, so super good to offer us this free help, made available in any Mass.  We come in a repentant life, a faithful life, and dependent life on Him, and receive the Grace of God in this unique way.

Jesus is called the Bread of Life.
The Italians have had a saying to describe someone who is truly a good person, the kind of person that exudes goodness. We have all met such people at times in our lives. The Italians call such a person “a piece of bread”: This Italian restaurant owner, Giuseppe, he noticed me back when I worked for him in the 1980’s as a breakfast cook, of how dedicated and enthused I was in working for him six days a week, keeping the AM customers very happy .He paid me a big compliment: “You know, John Barry, you are a piece of bread.” It’s an Italian saying, but it’s something that transcends cultures. All cultures understand that quality of genuine goodness, and in just about every culture, bread is the staff of life. He was saying, ‘we need you, John, every morning around here. You make a difference, a good difference. I value you like my good dough!’

But in the ultimate goodness, and holiness department—Jesus is the Bread of Life.   Bread does keep many people fed and staying alive on earth, but there is a goodness, holy bread that keeps one alive forever, to become a child of God, it is the Eucharist, Jesus, the Bread of Life.

You know, Jesus, You are the Bread of Life.

So that restaurant owner and job, it was an Italian place on the oceanfront in New England. I had a great summer working there. I had not gone back until last year to Hampton Beach, and I was sad to see the restaurant not open anymore, and especially for this tasty treat they served for breakfast.  It was called Frita or Italian Fried Dough.

As a breakfast cook, it was served with all our morning meals or even just with coffee, as it was our best food there. It was amazingly good.  I learn the secret Italian way and methods of preparing the fried dough in the kitchen, and of what very special flour and mixture was used to make the hot, fried treat.  FRITA  A GOOD FRIED DOUGH  is done in Peanut oil     375 degrees.  In a  special rounded pan. Or in restaurant dipping trays into oil with yeast and water.  The quite“secret” flour, if in a pan, is beat vigorously with the yeast and water until soft dough forms.  Turn dough out on smooth surface, kneeding into shapes with greased hands. Six inch length and thin. Then into the oil it is fried. Wait for the bubbles for the bread to be cooked and brisk, sugar was added into the cooking, then one pulls the dough out,  Fried dough is golden brown.  Drain in paper towels, then have it sprinkled with powdered sugar and/or then coated with jams, honey, whipped cream.  This is not like cake donuts nor like French pastries and it’s not in the pizza dough category.  No way. It’s also not a churro.  It’s much better.  They look like the apple pies that come out of McDonalds, but that’s where the comparison ends. McD’s pies are pretty bad. Italian fried dough from Giovanni’s Restaurand and breakfast chef John Barry, it is fantastic.  Or was fantastic.

The Hampton Beach town had no Giovanni’s Restaurant anymore, nor that excellent breakfast. The beach town still had a place that made fried dough, and I had it, and it was pretty good, but when I tasted it, I knew it could not meet the high standards of taste and delight to my memory, as Giovanni’s was the best for fried dough, but by my having a fried dough there did have me remember one of my favorite Summers of my life, just by a taste of that fried dough.

I give that example because the Eucharist is a memorial. It is meant for us to taste and see and remember for all the good the Lord has done for us, even saving us by the Cross and Resurrection for starters.  We remember how you loved us, to your death, Jesus, and we celebrate for you are with us here, and we remember how we’ll see you, when you come, back in Glory Lord, as promised. We remember, we celebrate, we believe.

Those are the words of a Catholic song I played and sang for many a Mass when as a volunteer music minister prior to seminary and ordination.

This Bread of Jesus I can keep going to—as long as there are valid Catholic Masses—and it won’t be lost or diminished or changed.  He is here.

I keep promoting vocations to the priesthood, for the Eucharist will be as available in the future as there are priests to do the Holy Mass.   Jesus has set it up that way.  So, parish, pray for vocations and find them for the Church and encourage our young men to consider it.

It is in living this way as feeding and being in Christ the Living Bread that we make ourselves to be “a piece of bread” as a person trying to be fed upon the pure goodness of God, loving the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, in humble service, putting the good of the other before ourselves. The Eucharist is Jesus in us who can help us to live in the Bread or Way of Himself.

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