47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
We speak of businesses in terms of life. They are born, they thrive and struggle, they grow, and they can die. Like people, businesses seem to have a life of their own. But do they somehow participate in the resurrection life we experience through our faith? In light of the resurrection, what will be the lasting significance of all the time and effort we put into our work?
We will find no perfect answer to those questions on this side of heaven; however, Jesus gives us a clue here in this teaching about manna and the living bread. Just as our physical bodies need food to survive, businesses also require tangible sustenance, in the form of labor, revenue and profits. These are the breath of life for a business. These are gifts of God also, provided out of his abundant creativity and grace. Just as bread feeds the body, so do these gifts feed the corporate body of the business.
And yet, this bread and these tangible gifts of the earth are not the food of eternal life. Jesus says, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” He himself is the living bread, and we enter into eternal life by believing in him [v. 47] and receiving his sacramental presence. We celebrate this gift in the Eucharist when we partake in the bread and cup.
We may say it’s the same for our work in business also—the physical foods (i.e., profit and capital) are not enough to gain eternal life. They are merely food of the earth. But work rendered in belief, and life sustained in the sacramental presence of Jesus—that is a different matter. That is work done as testimony to Jesus as the living bread of heaven. By participation in that meal, the sacramental meal, our work takes part in the promise of eternal life.
In practical terms this means work can be a sign of faith. It is part of life lived in witness to the greater reality of God. It means Christ’s presence in us makes all of life sacramental, and that includes our working lives. It means the decisions I make today will be guided by faith in the bread of heaven, not by desperate hunger for those things which are not bread and do not satisfy [Isaiah 55:2].
© Bruce D. Baker 2013