The Bread of Life

13 August 2006: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6, 41-51: The Bread of Life

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 it mean to become the bread of life?

Late in the 15th century, two young wood-carving apprentices in France confided to each other their desire to study painting. But such study would take money, and both Hans and Albrecht were poor.

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, Hans worked as a blacksmith. As quickly as he received his wages he would forward money to his friend.

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

The two men met in joyous reunion, but when Albrecht looked at his friend, tears welled from his eyes. Only then did he discover the extent of Hans’ sacrifice. The many years of heavy labor in the blacksmith shop had calloused and bruised Hans’ sensitive hands. His fingers could never handle a painter’s brush. (see note below)

In humble gratitude to Hans for his years of sacrifice, the artist, the great Albrecht Dürer, painted a portrait of the hands that had labored so faithfully in order that he might develop his talent. He presented this painting of praying hands to his devoted friend. It has since become familiar to millions of people --- and perhaps, you have seen it.

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 Hans. Behind our lives is someone who labors for our salvation.

There is, however, a pressing problem: Have we been bread of life to others?

Note: I found this story in a book called, Bits and Pieces. However the internet has given me more information which I found while waiting to upload this homily. The internet story tells us that they were brothers, and the name of "Hans" in our story, is Albert. And Albert worked at the mines, because their father, Albrecht Durer the Elder, was a goldsmith. Albrecht studied in Nuremberg. Whatever the story, the essence still remains the same.

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