Can You be a Bread of Life?


9 August 2009. 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19, 4-8; Psalm 34; Eph 4, 30- 5,2; John 6, 41-51

In the Gospel, Jesus said that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He who partakes of it will have eternal life. This bread is for the life of the world. What does He mean to become the bread of life?

A simple and true story:

Late in the 15th century, two young wood-carving apprentices in a tiny village near Nuremberg confided to each other their desire to study painting in the Academy. But such study would take money, and both Albert and Albrecht were poor; they were brothers of a large family of eighteen.

Finally, though, they had a solution. Let one work and earn money while the other studied. Then, when the lucky one became rich and famous, let him in turn aid the other. They tossed a coin and Albrecht won.

So while Albrecht went to Venice, Albert worked as a blacksmith. As quickly as he received his wages he would forward money to his brother.

The months stretched into years — and at last Albrecht returned to his native land, an independent master. Now it was his turn to help Albert.

The two men met in joyous reunion, a dinner prepared by the Durer family, but when Albrecht looked at his brother, tears welled from his eyes. Albrecht rose to drink a toast to his brother for the years of sacrifice. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nürnberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks and said, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nürnberg. It is too late for me. Look…look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, my brother…for me it is too late.”

Only then did he discover the extent of Albert’s sacrifice. The many years of heavy labor in the blacksmith shop had calloused and bruised his sensitive hands. His fingers could never handle a painter’s brush.

In humble gratitude to his brother Albert for his years of sacrifice, the artist, the great Albrecht Dürer, painted a portrait of the working hands that had labored so faithfully in order that he might develop his talent. He presented this painting of praying hands to his devoted brother. It has since become familiar to millions of people. It is also called, “The Hands of the Apostle.”

When you have seen this painting of praying hands, remember the story behind it. When Jesus said that He is the bread for the life of the world, He meant that His sacrifice will nourish us all.

We are like Albrecht, and Jesus is like Albert. Behind our lives is someone who labors for our salvation; so that like Elijah, we will be able to do God’s mission — by being bread to others. Just as Albrecht made a portrait of Albert’s praying hands, we too should make something good in gratitude for Jesus’ calloused, bruised and praying hands.

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