Bread: Blessed, Broken and Shared
He came on a bright and windy Thursday afternoon. He has a letter, an invitation for me, to celebrate the First Holy Communion of all private and public grade two and three pupils of his parish church in Samal. I offered him, Monsignor Edilberto Cruz, the pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena coffee and boiled bananas. “Bishop,” the good Monsignor intervened, “I brought you this specialty of Samal. We call it araro cookies.”
It is small, whitish with cashew nuts kind of bread. I took a piece and tasted. The covering is crispy yet soft inside. It tastes little sweet and easily melts. “It is delicious,” I concluded. Monsignor Edel informed that it has been family business of the Manuel’s since 1955. I was told that George and Puring his devout and dedicated parishioners personally prepare, bake and sale their most sought out ‘araro’ cookies outside Bataan. I was so curious about it and asked for their address. Monsignor Edel even promised to introduce me to George and Puring. And before the angelus Monsignor Edel left with my affirmative response and bottles of ‘araro’ cookies for me.
That night I was thinking about bread. And it led me to this reflection.
Bread is food. Bread is sustenance. It gives life, maintains life. Thus, bread means life. It is needed. Bread is important and very necessary in one’s life. The New Testament has meaningful and beautiful passages about bread. One, in the desert and being tempted by the devil Jesus proclaimed “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4,4). So for us this signifies that what the world offers will never last. All are temporary. All will pass, even hunger. Only God suffices. Only God matters. Only God provides what is best and beneficial for us. Here Jesus is telling us to trust first and foremost in God’s providential care.
Two, is from the question of Jesus to his disciples “you have some loaves: how many? Go and see” (Mark 6,38). We have always the capacity to give, to share and to do something for others. Jesus is challenging us to be gracious, to generous. We have still something to offer. We have all the ways and means to be of help, to be of service. And miracles happen when one is willing to share.
Three, Jesus professed “I am the bread of life…” (John 6,35ff). it is Jesus Himself whom we receive in the Holy Eucharist. During consecration the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus. So with the Holy Eucharist we become one with Jesus. We are united with Him. We become like Jesus. We become Him. And we are for Jesus.
Lastly, is the institution of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper. Saint Mark narrated to us that “Jesus took the bread, he blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples” (14,22).
I ended the night with an outline with my First Communion homily.
It was bright yet mild Saturday morning. The Church was full. There were about two hundred twenty five students. They were all excited, attentive and well behaved. Most were in their different school uniforms. All the rest were in their white blouses with veils and white long sleeves. During the homily I shared with them these pointers:
1. Jesus “took the bread.” Jesus took us from our present condition or from our past situation. He removed us from our land or from loved ones. We no longer belong to ourselves or to a certain group. Jesus took us to Himself. Jesus brought us to His love, to His mercy. Jesus led us to His home, to the Father. And we are for Jesus. We must for Him.
2. Jesus “blessed it.” Jesus blessed us with His graces and favors. He watches over us and protects us. Jesus gifted us with skills and talents. He walks with us and makes our journey safe. In our sorrow, Jesus comforts us. In our pain, He consoles us. In our needs, He supplies what is best and beneficial for us. With Jesus in our life, we are secured. With Jesus we are lacking in nothing.
3. Jesus “broke it.” Jesus removes what is negative, what is bad in us. In order to be conformed to Jesus, He breaks us from our material attachments. He prunes us in order to bear much fruits. Jesus purifies our minds and hearts. He breaks what is dangerous and sinful in us. Jesus breaks us so that we can grow as He wants us to be.
4. Jesus “gave it.” Jesus returns us to our people as better person, as His dedicated follower, as the faithful sons and daughters of the Church. As we receive Jesus, He transforms us and sends us to our family and friends to share to them His love and forgiveness. As we are transformed by His Body and Blood, Jesus commissions us to Him to others. Jesus gives us back to our lands and loved ones to be His hands, to be His heart, to be His feet to them. And so we are now the bread- blessed, broken and shared for others.
It was a successful and spiritually uplifting liturgical celebration. The children were overjoyed. Contentment was visible from the admiring looks of their parents. The catechists were happy and so relieved that everything went very well. And I was so grateful to God. I verbally expressed my appreciation for their gracious participation and selfless collaboration.
Msgr Edel Cruz handed me a piece of white paper. In it was written ‘Manuel’s Special Homemade Araro Cookies’ since 1955. Samal, Bataan. He is assuring me, “they are expecting you and prepared something.” The house was just ten minutes from the Parish Church.
Over plates of special araro and araro with cashew nuts cookies, George explained to me the process and preparation. Araro is typical root crops. It is long yet robust. As grinded it turns out as flour. The araro flour battered and smashed. Milk, cheddar cheese and little salt are added. With the use of medium size tablespoon a portion is placed on small decorative and shapely urns. George and Puring take the shape of a leaf for their araro cookies. Set aside on different stainless trays George with his three helpers put them into an electrical oven. The heat is automatically set at 200 degree Celsius. And after exactly thirty minutes sweet smelling and crisp araro cookies fill the air and ready to eat.
We joyfully shared some freshly baked araro cookies with cashew nuts and took brewed coffee. I thanked them for this valuable information. With their constant kindness and caring ways, George and Puring gifted me with twenty four packs of araro cookies. I blessed them for their goodness.
On my way home to Balanga, I recalled the biblical verse “give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6,11) and I trustingly recited my prayer of petition:
Our dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
our loving protector and gracious provider.
Give us our sustenance.
Grant us your strength.
Make us safe and save us.
In your great love and immeasurable compassion
we humbly beg of you to supply in us what we need in this life.
Multiply our bread and fish (Mark 6,38).
Fill us with your goodness.
Make our works fruitful.
Grant to us your blessings.
And help us to share them to others.