Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Most Dangerous Prayer: Part 4

As we continue through this reflection on the Our Father, we come up on the following phrase , "Give us this day our daily bread."  For what are we asking here? St Cyprian points out, " Daily bread may be understood both spiritually and simply, because both meanings help us to understand salvation.  For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread is not the bread of all, but it is our bread." 

Certainly, the meaning is two fold.  First it is a physical longing for that which we need.  Here I feel compelled to differentiate between the words 'need' and 'want' as our society has a difficult time separating the meaning of these words.  They are not synonymous!   Need would connote a necessity for life.  Needs are basic.  We need food, water, shelter, clothing, and to be loved.  Want goes beyond this and seeks more than needs. 

We need food, not caviar.  We need water, not Champagne.  We need shelter, not mcmansions.  We need clothing, not name brands.  In prayer, we ask God for needs.  In the Scriptures we see God is concerned with needs, not so much with wants.  In fact, our desire for excess can and does, at times, prevent others from getting their needs.  Before I get accused of socialism or worse, do not forget the operation of the free will.  Our willingness towards looking to the needs of others is not to be done a s a result of compulsion, but as a result of love.  That said, a reading of the Last Judgment sequence of Matthew 25 will be be sufficient to remind us the price of ignoring the needs of others.  Asking for God to attend to our needs as we ignore the needs of others is the height of hypocrisy.

However, our needs go beyond the physical. We are more than physical beings.  We are spiritual beings as well.  The bread needed there is the daily grace of God, especially that which is given most powerfully through the sacramental life of the Church. This is the same Jesus who says "I am the Bread who came down from heaven...I am the bread of life! (John 6:32-42)  The man born in Bethlehem, which comes from the Hebrew 'house of bread', who was lain is a manger, a place where animals feed,  most certainly points to Himself in this directive to pray for our daily bread.

If we are to ask for such things, should we not be open to them?  Do we dare ask God to provide for our needs when we focus on our wants?  Can we ask God to provide for our needs as we deny others their needs?  Can we ask for the bread of life but shut our souls and hearts through sin?  To petition God for that which we do not want is supremely disrespectful to God.  To demand more than we need is to say that what God gives is insufficient.

Jesus asks us to ask for OUR needs to be met. Not my needs.  Our needs. Give US this day OUR daily bread. This would imply an understanding that I not only pray for the needs of others, but that as a son or daughter of God, I am attendant to the needs of others...not merely my own.  There is no room for narcissism in the Body of Christ.  We cannot ask God to be just and withhold being just.  We are told, 'the measure with which you measure, will be measured to you'.

In Catholicism, we are given concrete instruction towards what needs we should be attending (all in the name of a life of divine love) in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We are given THE Bread of Life in the Eucharist.  We are given the opportunity to be freed of the weight of our sins in the sacrament of Confession.  In giving us our daily bread, God is most generous in the ways and avenues He takes is giving us what we need.  In praying 'give us this day..', we are also implying that we are willing to receive it on His terms.  We can't want the benefits but not the relationship.  We approach God as a loving child, not as an entitled brat. 

As we will continue to see as the prayer further unfolds, to call God our Father, is to desire to conform our lives to make His qualities our own.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Father for this. Will reflect on this a lot this week.