The names of very few towns hold as much meaning for us as that of Bethlehem. That name for Christians quickly evokes images of the Infant Savior, of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels. Bethlehem calls to mind the unfathomable mystery of God giving himself humanly to our world. And so, the word “Bethlehem” evokes the notions of peace, joy, love, and hope. Also, of significance is the fact that the literal meaning of the word “Bethlehem,” in Hebrew, is “house of bread.” Among many ancient peoples, bread was the basic source of nourishment, and therefore represented all the things needed to sustain life.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus feeds a great crowd of people miraculously with bread, and the event was a sign that he wanted to give all good things to us humans. But, especially, it was a sign and a promise of the Eucharist. Somewhat later, Jesus made that promise explicit when he said, as recorded in the Gospel of John, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jesus made good that promise at the Last Supper, and he continues to keep it every time we celebrate Mass.
It was Bethlehem, the “house of bread,” that witnessed the birth of Jesus and therefore gave us the Savior, who was to become our Bread of Life. His birth was the turning point in human history. The world was given a promise and possibility of peace, joy, love and hope––concepts that acquired a whole new depth and richness of meaning.
Let us bring to our prayer today gratefulness for the peace, joy, love and hope we find in our lives and for the sources of these graces.
Let Us Pray:
Lord Jesus, in your gospel teaching and example you set forth all that must characterize us as your disciples and apostles. For our partaking of you as our Bread of Life, may we become in truth a eucharistic people, capable of revealing and extending your presence and influence to all. Amen.
Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)