Give us this day our daily bread
Reflection – On last Friday’s blog the Pope wrote about the Our Father as a prayer which uniquely bears us into Christ’s own prayer to his Father, and hence into the very heart and life of the Trinity. He urged us to study the words of the prayer carefully, as the deepest truths about God, and hence the deepest truths about man, are held within it. So, being shepherded by our good German in that way, I am blogging my way through the Lord’s prayer for a few days.
So we’ve already looked at what we find so hard to believe (that God is our loving Father), what we find hard to maintain in our modern skeptical age (reverence and awe), what we just don’t wanna do nohow noway (God’s will, not ours). Now we come to the petition that offends us in our practical sensible selves.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Hmmph. Most people I know work pretty hard for their daily bread. In MH, while we certainly do live as a mendicant community, begging for alms from our benefactors, we also work very hard farming and doing everything else needed to put that daily bread on the table for ourselves and those we serve. God does not rain down loaves of bread or whatever else might qualify as subsistent fare for us. He expects us to work!
So what are we asking here, anyhow? Well, quite a lot really, and I don’t think a blog post will be long enough to exhaust it. It is true, isn’t it, that the first half of the Lord’s prayer is encompassing quite a program of life for us? Not to mention what we’re about to ask our Father for in the last petitions of the prayer. But to continually lift our minds and hearts to God in a continuous act of worship and love, to ongoingly surrender our will to His and give ourselves over to the building of his kingdom in our world—that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
Are you up to that challenge? I’m not. I need help! And so the next logical petition in the prayer is, logically, just that. Helllllllllp! Give us what we need, Lord. My pantry is bare, my resources are simply not going to carry me through life in a godly, faithful, loving way.
When I was about to be ordained a priest, I had to fill in a ‘final evaluation’ – one small part of the endless paperwork seminary life entails. A question on it was ‘are you ready to be ordained?’ My answer began by saying that, while I was reasonably realistic about the demands and challenges of priestly life, and was quite happy to assume those challenges, I knew very well that my own ‘readiness’ would get me about as far as the seminary gates before I would collapse in a useless heap. They were OK with ordaining me, anyhow.
The first thing we need to know about living the Christian life is that we cannot do it. The level of faith, hope, love that God asks of us and that is the deep heart of living in the heart of Jesus, living in the heart of the Trinity, is so ridiculously beyond our capacity, that we simply must turn to God and say, ‘give us this day our daily bread.’
Is it the Eucharist? Yes. Is it the hidden working of grace in the depths of our soul? Yes. Is it the amazing reality that each day we do find it in us to serve, to love, to be kind, to forgive, when we’re not quite sure ourselves why and how we are doing it? Yes. Is it, even, practical help coming to us in ways that do not look miraculous—the kindness of strangers, the normal ebb and flow of human goodness in and around us? Yes, yes, yes.
All is from God ultimately, and all is ordered by God for our benefit ultimately. And even when the hunger pangs and seeming failure of our lives bite deeply into us, this too is ‘daily bread’ for us. This too is what we need, right now, to get deeper into Christ, deeper into God’s love. To experience painfully my utter poverty, my utter failure to love and be a Christian, the famine in the land, the starvation rations of my own frail and fickle humanity. All is, in a strange way, the bread of affliction I need today to spur me to turn to our Father in heaven in a new way, at a new depth, with a new purpose and a deeper sincerity of heart.
God gives us what we need—but this ‘need’ comes to us in strange packages and with sharp edges at times. So this petition calls us both to expectantly look to God for the help we need in life, but also to bow to His will with deep trust and faith.