“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn 6: 48-51)
Differently from the “manna in the wilderness” (Ex 16), the Bread of Life in the Church’s Eucharist does not only “come down from heaven.” While it is God Who makes our bread into “the living bread which came down from heaven,” by sending down His Holy Spirit in the Church’s Liturgy, it needs to be baked, and then offered, by our human hands.
The Lord willed it so, in His New Covenant with us, that we participate more in providing for our essential, life-sustaining “bread.” In the Church or “ekklesia” (from “ekkaleo,” meaning “to call forth”), we are generally dignified with more responsibility, in our “wilderness,” than God’s people had in theirs, where they ate manna “and died.” In Christ, we are called to be His co-workers in the oft-messy and complicated building-project that is us, both as individuals and as Church. So as I pray this morning, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I embrace not only our role in receiving it, but also our role in providing for it, and doing so responsibly, for both our physical and spiritual nourishment.