Give us this day our daily bread… we pray it all the time – but what does it mean? Today’s readings give us some insight into that. To set the stage, it helps to know that today’s Gospel come the day after last Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus fed the 5000. Pay attention to the details today…. Pay attention to what the Israelites say in that first reading – and think about what it really implies. Notice the attitude of the crowd in the Gospel, and think about what THAT really implies.
Ever read the Little House on the Prairie books? GREAT reading – honestly. It’s a simple story which tells a lot about how people lived in the late 1800’s in the plains. In one book called The Long Winter, their town in Minnesota had gotten cut off from civilization by a series of blizzards. For MONTHS, the train couldn’t get through, so there were no provisions – no food. All they had was wheat – and not enough of that. They would take their daily ration of wheat and make a course bread from it… and for months – THAT was all they ate. As you can imagine, they were close to starvation. I bring it up because of what the little girl said one time as they sat down to eat. Something like “I’ll be glad if I never see wheat bread again as long as I live”. Her mom immediately snapped at her for being so ungrateful. Mom knew that there was only enough wheat left for one more day – and after that – there was no telling how she would feed the family.
It’s easy, when we’re in the midst of suffering, to concentrate on what we DON’T have, rather than the blessings. The girl had lost sight of what a blessing it was to have that daily portion of bread.
The Israelites had DEFINITELY lost sight of the blessings they’d received. They somehow forgot all the wonders God had done to deliver them out of Egypt – the plagues, the parting of the red sea, the pillar of fire… today, they were lamenting that they were hungry… and apparently they were all drama-queens… “oh, if ONLY we had stayed in Egypt! At least there we had enough food to eat!” REALLY… do you realize what you’re saying? YOU WOULD RATHER BE A SLAVE TO PHAROAOH THAN BE FREE. Really? Yeah- pharaoh might beat us and make us work all day for nothing – and kill our kids – and deprive us of our dignity… but hey – at least we had food!!!
God needed to teach them a lesson. It wasn’t their fault they acted like that: The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years, so ALL THEY KNEW was to trust PHAROAOH to feed them. God needed to get them to realize that HE is the real source of their food. Listen to this one line again:
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
Notice the part about the ‘daily portion… remind you of anything? “give us this day our daily bread”. God’s been trying to teach us to take only what we need for like 3000 years now. See – God sent just enough manna for everyone to have what they need. The catch is – anything you don’t eat today will rot overnight. So – anything I collect more than what I need is wasted –AND – it means somebody else didn’t get their share.
They needed to learn to depend on GOD for their daily bread.
God provides what we need every day. Some days it will seem like not enough… but He gives us enough to sustain us through the desert. You’ve probably heard the cliché: if God brings you to it, he’ll bring you through it. If God leads you to the desert, he’ll provide what you need to get through that desert. Often we won’t recognize the manna while we’re in the midst of life’s troubles - until afterward -looking back. We thought he had abandoned us, but in hindsight, we see his Grace at work sustaining us each day of the journey.
Jerry spent several years in the desert. He started drinking when he was in High School – it started out as a social thing, you know, to fit in with the crowd. Through college, weekends were for one thing: drinking parties. After dropping out of college, Jerry found that he couldn’t stop drinking. Anytime he tried to put the bottle down, he would get depressed and shaky. When he was drinking, he felt like he was fun to be around – like everybody was his friend… but when he put the bottle down, he found that he didn’t have anything to say. So he kept drinking… but it was killing him. He lost his job three times, because too often he just wouldn’t show up. He couldn’t hold a steady relationship with the women he dated. He had alienated his brothers and sisters because he had lied to them repeatedly and even stole from them to be able to afford his next drinking binge. He knew his life was in shambles… he wanted so much more out of life – so he TRIED to quit – but every time he tried, the depression would set in again. Then he’d think – at least while I was drinking, I was fun to be around. The guys at the bar were all my buddies –but now I’ve got nobody.
He decided that it was better to be a slave to his addiction than to be free. At least with his addiction, he didn’t have to feel the pain that the alcohol had caused to him and those around him – he could stay numb.
Jerry was like the Israelites in the desert. They would rather be slaves to Pharoah than take a chance that God could sustain them in the desert. Better the devil you know that the devil you don’t….so to speak.
How does that fit your life and mine? We all have situations, addictions, and habits that control us at times. Only you know what it is in your own life – something that you know you should get rid of – but it’s easier to just keep it, rather than upsetting the boat.
Think of the woman in an abusive relationship who stays with her husband for years and hides the bruises. She’s afraid to leave because – well – at least with him she has a roof over her head and food to eat. Besides, if she were to try to get help, it might upset him and make him even more violent. And what will people think of me!?
Or the guy at work who is so negative – such an instigator of trouble – that he is poisoning the whole place. Everyone’s attitude suffers because he brings everyone down. However, he also goes out of his way to do extra work all the time – so the folks in charge don’t want to chase him away. Better to live with the poisonous attitude than to risk getting less work done.
All of these situations require a leap of faith – a journey into the desert of the unknown. Would we prefer to stay in our slavery to our addictions and habits – or would we like to feel the freedom that God offers? God doesn’t guarantee that every leap of faith will be easy – or even successful – but in every journey, He’s teaching us to trust HIM to sustain us daily
…but we might not recognize the manna until we’ve gotten through the desert.