I was reflecting on how Jesus responded to Satan when the devil tempted him to slake his hunger by turning stones into bread. Jesus said, “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” I used to hear those words and think, “Ok, Jesus wants me to read the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. That’s where eternal life is found, not in the material food (bread) that I eat.” My return to Catholicism has caused me to reflect more deeply on those words of Christ.
The Bible is indeed the Word of God, but only the written part. It is easy to hear the words “The Word of God” and think “Bible.” However, Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is God’s ultimate Word. Everything God has to say to us he said in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word of God is Jesus. So, when Jesus says we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word of God, he means himself. Eternal life comes through Jesus.
Another important connection that once escaped me is the Eucharistic implications of Christ’s words. Bread alone is not Christ. Christ alone gives eternal life. A reading of John 6 shows Christ making a distinction between manna (material bread that you eat but eventually die) and him (the Bread of Life that we eat and receive eternal life from). John 6 also shows how adamant Christ is about his followers actually (not symbolically) eating the Bread of Life. A symbolic piece of bread is bread alone. It is not actually Christ, but only representing Christ. Such bread does not give eternal life. It is like the manna. The flesh that Jesus gave for the life of the world was his real flesh (not symbolic flesh). Believers need the real Jesus to have eternal life (not a symbolic Jesus). It is this real flesh Jesus commands his followers to eat (“my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink”) in order to have eternal life.
So, man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. We need the Bible (The Word of God), and we need Christ (The Word of God made flesh). Christ says he is The Bread of Life we must eat to have eternal life. Eating symbolic bread is eating bread alone, not Christ, The Bread of Life. Christians are not meant to live on bread alone. That is why Jesus gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The Word of God made flesh spoke the words of God, “This is my body, this is my blood” and it became, not bread alone, but the reality of The Word of God for us to eat and have eternal life within us. What Jesus speaks, happens. He cannot lie or deceive. He is The Word.
This is also why Catholics have daily Mass wherever possible. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Who doesn’t need Jesus every day?