Our Daily Bread
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

The floods are here. Just the other day, I was in a long line of traffic. A policeman approached the car and told us, “This car cannot cross.” The water was high enough to flood the engine and already there were stalled cars. As experienced in many parts of Cotabato last year, with the flood comes the problem of food. There will be displacements of people and the problem of securing their daily bread. What makes the situation worse is that the areas that were the site of a year-long armed conflict are also the same areas visited by flood.

Action starter: What is the bread that you ask for?

“Give us this day our daily bread,” is a prayer we may routinely say but it is a real petition from anguished hearts of mothers who have nothing to feed their children. It is an appeal of those who are not sure of where the next meal will come from.

This was the experience of the people of Israel when they were in the desert. They were so hungry that they grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They would prefer being well-fed slaves in Egypt rather than being hungry and free. Hunger does something to one’s priority of values. Food becomes more important than freedom. Trusting what is readily available is more important than trusting God’s promises. The first reading tells us that God responded to this unhappy situation by providing them food --manna and quails in great number (Ex. 16:15).

A similar situation of hunger occurred in the Gospel, Jesus had compassion for the hungry crowd that followed Him and He multiplied bread and fish enough to feed five thousand people. This Sunday’s reading is Jesus’ discourse after that event. He referred to Himself as the bread of life, “Whoever comes to me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn.6:35).

From the event in the Gospel, we see two levels of understanding the meaning of “daily bread”. On the first level of understanding, bread refers to the the physical food that nourishes us so that we can keep body and soul together. On the second level of understanding, it refers to the bread that gives meaning to our life. It is that which gives us the will to live. It is what gives impetus to life. For Chirstian believers, this bread is the Eucharist and the Word of God. It is the truth about life revealed in Jesus and confirmed by His own way of life. This is what Jesus means in saying, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).

Some would assert that one cannot appreciate the finer things in life if one is hungry. The physical bread is more important than the bread of meaning. Thus, the grumblers among the people of Israel who preferred bread over freedom. Remember Esau who gave up his birthright as the eldest son in exhange for a bowl of soup (Ex.25:34)? Others would assert that they would rather go hungry than give up their convictions. Happily, one does not exclude the other. We both need physical bread and the bread that gives meaning to life (call it spiritual bread, if you may).

Hunger for the bread of the first kind is what is prevailing around us. We can commend the people of the Cotabato provinces for this readiness to help others even as we deal with wars, floods, and terrorism. This is a sign that we are not lacking in terms of the bread of the second kind -- the bread that gives meaning to life. Those who partake of the bread of life that makes them generous, compassionate, and loving are the people who can respond to the hungry’s cry, “Give us this day our daily bread.”