(Editor’s note: Father Charles Fladung, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Solon, shared the following reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent with his parishioners and with The Catholic Messenger.)
Earlier this month, while the weather was calm, we moved the outdoor nativity by forklift from its storage place to outside of the entry doors of the church. Aged by the sun, weather, wind and rain, the nativity looks more like the manger every time I walk by it. With the straw inside for baby Jesus and the animals, it looks comfy.
In Iowa, we all would prefer a warmer home during the winter. Reflecting on that thought, I took a second look at the straw. Most of the straw we use in Iowa is from oats. Straw used in Jerusalem would have been from wheat.
After the wheat stems were thrashed and the seeds sorted out of the wheat straw, it could be fed to the animals, used for mattresses for humans, animal bedding, chopped and mixed with mud for bricks, or burned as a quick-burning fuel source for a stove. The seeds were ground into flour. These tasks would involve the entire family working together, harvesting, thrashing, sifting the chaff from the seeds or winnowing, and piling up the straw for other purposes. The cleaned wheat seed could then be ground by stones crushing the seeds into a coarse whole wheat flour to make simple unleavened breads.
Jesus used this kind of bread at the Last Supper. He gave us this bread as our daily bread. So, when you walk past a nativity set, remember not just the manger but also the Bread of Life.
The wheat seed died to self to multiply and give of itself for God. He blessed it to become his body, our spiritual food.