Basket of Bread,
Painting by Salvador Dali (1904-1989),
Painted in 1926,
Oil on canvas
© Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Florida

Basket of Bread,
Painting by Salvador Dali (1904-1989),
Painted in 1926,
Oil on canvas
© Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Florida

Gospel of 8 August 2021

Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever

John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.' 'Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph' they said. 'We know his father and mother. How can he now say, "I have come down from heaven"?' Jesus said in reply, 'Stop complaining to each other.

'No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.

It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father. I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life.

'I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'

Reflection on the Painting

'Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever', Jesus states in today's Gospel reading. Staying in the realm of Surrealist Art, after looking at a painting by Magritte yesterday, we look at Salvador Dali's 'Basket of Bread' which he painted in 1926. This is a different painting from the 'Basket of Bread' which Dali painted in 1945, and which we covered two years ago (see https://christian.art/daily-gospel-reading/40). Dali was 22 years old when he painted today's canvas and spent 4 months painting it, playing around with different compositions. He spent so much time on this painting to create an intense, dramatic rendering of an everyday object: bread. He created this painting as a test for himself. Afterwards he was proud and felt that now he could venture into more surrealist compositions, having mastered representing a simple loaf as a stand-alone dramatic composition. As the basket is placed on a white cloth, it is very reminiscent of the Dutch Old Masters. By saturating the basket of bread in such a mysterious light, Dali transforms the composition into an object of deep contemplation.

And that is what Jesus wants us to do today: contemplate Him as the Bread of Life. I cannot help but think that the Bread of Life discourse Jesus gives is maybe more than just referring to the Eucharist. Sure, this is the main message of today's Gospel, but maybe it is also about us being bread for other people and nourishing the people around us. Thinking back on all the people who have been bread in my life, I can think of family, teachers, work colleagues, friends, priests,… people who have nourished me and fed me spiritually, professionally.… They were bread for me….

…and we can be bread for people too and feed the life of someone else. Through our love, our compassion, our forgiveness, our patience, our witnessing, we can be that bread for other people… like the bread in our painting that is prepared, sliced and buttered… fully ready to be handed out to someone needy around us…

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