Anyone growing up in the Orlando area throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s will probably tell you they remember the Merita Bread Factory just past downtown Orlando. They made their bread twice daily, usually around 6:00am in the morning, and again around 7:30pm in the evening. The reason I know this is because I was usually driving past their bread factory at one of those times daily – usually in the evening – and the smell of fresh hot bread filling the air was always overwhelming (I may have also called to see if they would give a factory tour – which they didn’t offer). Usually, I would smell the bread baking in the evening while I was on my way out for the evening with my friends, heading downtown to hang out and maybe shoot a game or two of pool. Now, I don’t normally drive very slowly…I like to get where I am going, and get there quickly…it’s just one of my flaws, but when the evening bread was being made and the scent of hot fresh bread was in the air, I would intentionally slow down on that patch of I-4 to enjoy that wonderful smell for just a bit longer.
I was most definitely the reason for several traffic jams at those two times of the day, but I don’t imagine the other people minded very much since they were surrounded with the great smell of baking bread. Anyone driving down I-4 within a 2 mile radius of their bread factory knew bread was being made because of the delicious smell that filled the air.
As the years went on, the bread factory did not have as high of a demand for the bread they sold. I’m not entirely sure the reason, but eventually the factory started only baking bread once a day, then once every other day, then once a week on Saturday, until finally the factory closed down altogether. But even after they closed down and stopped baking bread, I could swear that whenever I drove by the factory, I could still smell the bread being baked.
It’s funny how our senses work. Our sense of smell is one of the strongest and the closest sense for our memories. A woman may smell a certain cologne and instantly recollect the first time she met her husband. A man may recall the smell of fresh cut grass and instantly be brought back to a Saturday morning baseball game when he was 12 years old. For me, every time I smell warm bread, it takes me back to my younger years and thinking of how much I really enjoyed going places with my friends for the evening and passing by the bread factory on the way downtown.
All this talk of bread started me thinking about our meal together every Sunday at Mass. After all, Jesus is the bread of life!
Since Jesus is the bread of life, I started drawing some parallels between the bread factory and our faith lives. There are certain times when we feel close to God and He fills our entire senses. Those times are the most memorable and happy occasions in one’s life and can always bring back happy times and happy memories. Then there are times when we travel down the road a little ways and start moving away from the bread factory and the scent of warm delicious bread becomes harder and harder to smell. This represents out journey in life and the times when we forget to slow down and enjoy God. We are in too big a rush to get to our destination and forget to enjoy the journey.
There are also times when we visit our relationship with God less frequently than we did in the past. And even though we remember how great our relationship once was, we struggle to reach that level of happiness once again. The good news here is that unlike the bread factory that closed down because people stopped buying the bread, God never stops loving you.
No matter how long it has been since you tasted the bread of life, it is always completely filling and completely satisfying. All you need to do is keep driving to the bread factory to get your fill. Pray this week for a fresh outlook on your relationship with Jesus. Give God an opportunity to reach you once again and remember that He never stops loving you, not matter how far away from His scent you think you are.