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  • Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Wednesday of Week Sixteen (Ordinary Time)

The Responsorial (Psalm 24) declares: “The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” How does God do this?

Exodus 16: 1-15 may tell us where the word we translate as “daily (epiousion) bread” in the Our Father came from. It was apparently coined by the Christians, as it is not found anywhere else in Greek. Fr. Ray Brown’s analysis concludes it means “future bread” or “bread of the morrow.”Like the manna that God promised to give his people “in the morning,” and of which they were to gather only a “daily portion,” enough for each day.[1]

In the Gospels the expression “to give bread” (arton diaonai) only occurs in a Eucharistic context.[2] Jesus called himself the true bread from heaven that gives eternal life. So “daily bread” is a petition asking God to give us “today” the bread of the eschatological banquet, the bread of the wedding feast, Jesus himself.[3]

The current General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no.81) says that “in the Lord’s Prayer, daily food is prayed for, which for Christians means preeminently the Eucharistic bread” — which is a preview and eschatological pledge of participation in the “wedding feast” and of eternal life.

Christian ministry is all about giving Jesus to people — not just doctrine, morality, or even the support of community, unless in and through these we give each other the experience of the living Jesus present among us, nourishing us with word and sacrament. “Give us today the bread of tomorrow.” Jesus says we should pray to experience him in our lives now. This should be our daily and life-directing desire.

In Matthew 13: 1-9 Jesus reflects with sadness on people’s failure to receive the life-giving seed of his words. We have already seen (Sunday 15 above) what keeps Jesus’ words from growing in our hearts. What should motivate us to work against these obstacles in ourselves and in our ministry to others?

Brown says it is the fact that Jesus is the “bread of life” in a “twofold sense”: both as the Eucharist and “as the incarnate teaching (Word) of the Father.” Eucharist should never be separated from reading and reflecting on Christ’s words. “The Lord gave them bread from heaven,” but we must digest this bread on earth by using our human powers daily — memory, mind and will — to receive the “daily bread” of Jesus giving himself in words as well as sacraments. At its root, all Christian ministry is based on the “ministry of the word,” just as the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass always follows and “incarnates” in mystery what was proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word.

Ministry is essentially self-expression: letting our “graced self” that is in union with Christ give expression to the divine faith, hope and love within us — but not just in words. In our bodies Christ’s words are “made flesh.”

Initiative: Be a priest. Absorb, live, communicate God’s lifegiving word.

[1] New Testament Essays, Bruce; 1965.

[2] See John 6; Matthew 14:22; Mark 8:6; Luke 24:30 and the postresurrectional meal in John 21:13.

[3] See John 6: 30-58; Matthew 8:11; 22:2; 25:10; Luke 6:21; 14:15; 22: 29-30; Revelation 19:9.

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