This Sunday’s first reading focuses on the experience of Israel in the period between leaving Egypt and settling in the Promised Land. The experience, as described in Chapter 16 of the book of Exodus, is one of feeling displaced. Israel was never happy being held in captivity, living under the domination of Egypt. However, as they wondered through the desert, longing to settle in a land of their own, the experience of the past didn’t seem so bad! The people cry out to Moses, “Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our hearts content!.” The question on the mind of the people of Israel was whether or not God had abandoned them. Were they better off for setting out into an unknown future?
It was then that they had to learn the lesson of trusting in God’s providence day by day. The story that continues in Chapter 16 tells of the amazing hand of God providing bread from heaven. Each morning the Lord provided a light, delicate, powdery dew which became the daily bread of Israel. And so the writer wants to tell us that Israel had to learn to trust in God, day by day, without having certainty in a future beyond tomorrow.
There is a certain spirituality of living in the present that we can learn from this text. It is something that perhaps many of us have had to learn over the last couple of years. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives and change our plans we can draw on this rich tradition of learning to live and rely on the hand of God, day by day. And the biblical story is one that tells us that learning to trust in God’s providence day by day is not in vain. The hand of God never leaves us to hunger and thirst without justice being done.
And yet in our world we see the continued crying out of those who are displaced or without future. I think of the people of Myanmar at the moment, desperately fighting a military coup and a Covid crisis; I think of the hundreds of asylum seekers on a hunger strike in Brussels as they plea for certainty around their future, I think of women and young girls living amid violence and abuse in too many parts of the globe. The biblical story is our inspiration to continue to stand up for all those who have lost their daily bread, to speak out where hope is lost and darkness falls. Like so many in our world, these are the people who witness to us what living day by day must mean.
This is why we feed ourselves on the body of Christ at the Eucharist. We partake of the bread of life in order that we may become what we eat: bread broken for a hungry world. When we participate in the Eucharist we cannot remain untouched by the hunger of the world around us. When we participate in the Eucharist we also learn that there is one beyond ourselves that feeds us and forms us. The Gospel of today will tell us that this is Jesus Christ, the bread of life. And our faith calls us to take one step at a time and let the God of life lead and guide us.