Jesus himself has become bread for us, and this multiplication of the loaves endures to the end of time, without ever being depleted. This gives us the background we need if we are to understand what Jesus means when he cites the Old Testament in order to repel the tempter: ‘Man does not live on bread alone but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.’ The German Jesuit Alfred Delp, who was executed by the Nazis, once wrote, “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.”
When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves. When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to nothing.
1, 33 Nazareth
Reflection – Strong words from Pope Benedict here. I think they are also precisely true words. When bread is all that matters, quickly all that matters is that I get my share of the bread. When the word of God is despised, ignored, rejected, when there is little if any concern for the truth of things, for the ultimate meanings and purposes of life, when this world and this moment become all that matters, we do not magically become altruistic saints.
We have to be honest with ourselves. We (and by this I mean ‘human beings’) are not all that nice, really. We can be OK, and we are OK most of the time, but put us under pressure, turn up the heat, make things a little rough and tumble for us, and most of us are not going to do that well.
We may not immediately devolve into Hobbesian wolves devouring each other, but let’s be honest. We need help to be good. We don’t just get there automatically.
For example, ‘the earth is our only home.’ This is the great slogan of the green movement – this idea that because all we have is this planet and this place and there is nothing else anywhere awaiting us or for us, we have to take care of it. All very logical, yet I maintain it is precisely this attitude that drives environmental degradation and destruction.
If the earth is our only home, then we have no happiness beyond what we can attain here. If that is true, then we had better twist and bend and break and crush the earth to make it yield what we so desperately seek, the fullness of life and joy and happiness we are made for.
The earth cannot give us that, but by the bitter time we have learned that, we have despoiled it utterly. Meanwhile, if we know that the earth is not our only home, that we have a Home elsewhere, that elsewhere is the fullness of joy and peace and goodness we long for, we can in fact live lightly on the face of the earth and only use what we need from it.
And there are so many examples of this. Sex is for immediate pleasure and (perhaps) an expression of love between persons—this is the basic idea of our modern culture. Children are truly an afterthought in this, and God has nothing whatsoever to do with it. And yet… studies keep showing how little satisfied moderns are with their sexual lives, how difficult it is to achieve that immediate pleasure, how miserable so many are in this area of life.
When God is removed from first place in our lives, it does not place us into first place, but rather leaves us at the mercy of cold fate, cruel circumstance, ruthless men, and our own inconstant hearts. It is only when God—the loving Father, the One who is merciful and gracious to all his children—is in first place that we can order our days and lives in love and in peace.