By Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
This issue is the third in a series on The Lord’s Prayer, found in the Gospels of Matthew (6:9-13) and Luke (11:1-4). Here we have the beginning of what is known as the “We Petitions.”
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD (Please) – Notice it is “us”, “Give us our daily bread.” We are on this faith journey in the company of others, all the children of God. We are not praying alone even though physically we may be by ourself. As Bill Spohn pointed out in his wonderful book, “Go and Do Likewise,” in the Our Father we are ushered into a conversation with God that Jesus had, and with countless others.
The very fact that we can say these words indicates a trust on our part that God is listening; we trust that God will provide what we need to do the work he asks of us, and even more than we need. We base this confidence on the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish (Mark 6:34-44) – not only was the vast crowd fed, but the disciples gathered up enough leftovers to fill 12 baskets!
And, what do we ask for: Bread. The word, bread, has many connotations: staff of life – sustainer of life – the food of the body and the soul – symbol of union: having many grains in one substance, when broken and shared it represents shared and united life. Biblically, in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), bread is associated with the flight from Egypt and came in the form of manna (Exodus 16); in the New Testament, among other places, in the name of the city where Jesus was born – Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread.’
In this section of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Creator to satisfy our hungry spirit. Theologian, Gerald O’Collins, suggests that our deepest desires as human beings are to: live fully -- have a sense of meaning in life -- love and be loved. “Bread” in this context can also refer to: God’s grace, the gift of wisdom, courage to act ethically, inner strength to carry one’s cross (es), and someone to love and be loved by.
Two questions for reflection: What is my most fundamental need? What am I most hungry for?
The Eucharist is the central Christian sacrament; it feeds us personally and communally. The Body of Christ nourishes us interiorly and moves us beyond ourselves. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, former General Superior of the Jesuits, speaking of the crisis of world hunger, summed up this reality when he said :“This rediscovery of what might be called the ‘social dimension’ of the Eucharist is of tremendous significance today. In the Eucharist…we receive not only Christ, the Head of the Body, but its members as well…Wherever there is suffering in the body, wherever members of it are in want or oppressed, we, because we have received the same body and are a part of it, must be directly involved. We cannot properly receive the Bread of Life without sharing Bread for Life with those in want.” John Joseph Krol, former Cardinal of Philadelphia, also commented on this dimension of the Eucharist: “Jesus is bread broken for the world not only that he might heal our wounded nature through eucharistic nourishment but that we might see him in the broken bodies of those who are starving (in the world).”
(November 2007 Newsletter)