God feeds us with manna from heaven.
Today is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast accentuates for us the difficulties we have as a Christian community, at the moment, in not being able to come together and celebrate Eucharist. It has forced us to ask questions about how we experience the real presence of Christ. Many people, for example, have been asking what it means to experience the presence of Christ in the Eucharist when we are watching remotely, via live streaming or pre-recorded Masses. How do we experience Christ’s presence in the Eucharist when we cannot receive the body and blood of Christ, in and through the form of bread and wine, in our communities of faith? The answers to these questions will unfold over time as people share their experiences of connection and presence or indeed, of their experiences of absence and emptiness. Many people across our parishes have given witness to the fact that they do, indeed, experience a sense of connection to the community and the living God as they participate in the online celebration of the Eucharist.
The readings for today can be instructive too. The first reading is more or less a speech made by Moses. This speech is like a recurring theme in the Torah. It appears in different forms at different times in the life and journey of Israel. I like to think of it as a three quater time speech that a coach might make to the team! In the case of Moses he exhorts Israel to remember. It goes like this: “Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). Again and again Israel is called to remember that God is the God who led her out of slavery into freedom. From servitude to salvation. Again and again God accompanied Israel on her journey and fed her with manna from heaven along the way.
This reading on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ should prompt us to likewise remember. We remember that just as God has accompanied his people in the past so he will accompany them today. Just as God in the past has feed his people with manna from the desert so he will do again today. Our remembering is always done with a view to calling on God to do once more what he has done before. Feed us and save us!
As we have experienced social distancing and communal lockdown have we been able to detect new ‘manna’ from heaven? Has our God been at working feeding us in a new way? Have we been able to experience the presence of God in his Word as we have opened the scriptures, even in the privacy of our homes. Have we experiened manna from heaven as we have been forced into simplicity of life that this pandemic has asked of us? Have we experienced manna from heaven in the new (and old) ways that we have connected with each other, cared for one another, checked on one another, prayed for and accompanied one another at this time? This year the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ might just ask us to look again at where the Lord has sent us manna from heaven to feed and nourish us on our journey.
The Gospel of John reminds us that Jesus Christ himself is the bread from heaven par excellence. He is the ultimate mannna from heaven. He is the very living bread that endures and lasts for eternity. Jesus Christ continues to give of himself in order to form a people who can call themselves his body – the body of Christ. And it is this body that is called to be manna from heaven for the life of the world today.
Cover picture for this post, The Israelites Collecting Manna from Heaven, Rudolf von Ems (Austrian, 1200 – 1254) The J. Paul Getty Museum, L.A.