Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Part of the Lord’s Prayer is a request for the bread we need to sustain life. Even though we work to obtain the bread we need daily, our daily bread is a gift and a grace. For many people, having bread every day is not something they even have to think about or pray for: their cupboards are full. But for countless millions of people, having bread every day is a rarity: they live with hunger, with barren cupboards.

Bread is about relationship. It comes from the earth and from work and is for everyone. The earth produces the grain, we harvest and produce the bread, the bread is distributed, we give thanks for it and consume it. Bread is meant to be shared, to give life to all.

The earth sustains humanity, and is in a life-giving relationship with us. We need to respect and protect “our sister, mother earth,” as St. Francis so poetically called her, so she can continue to produce our daily bread, bread meant to sustain the kingdom of God.

In his wonderful little book Three Prayers, Olivier Clément prays: “Give us – all of us – the bread we need, and may it also be the bread of the Kingdom, the bread of fraternal benevolence and of beauty.”

Our praying for daily bread brings with it an obligation to share the bread. An essential part of Eucharistic communion is the obligation to share the Bread of Life. As St. John Chrysostom would say, the sacrament of ‘one’s neighbor’ cannot be separated from the sacrament of ‘the altar.’ We participate in the sacrament of ‘the altar’ and easily forget the sacrament of ‘the neighbor.’

Part of the very Eucharistic mystery is the fact that the consecrated bread already contained the sacred before the words of consecration were uttered. Nurtured by the sun and watered by the rain, the unconsecrated bread is the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands. Bread is the gift of God’s benevolence and, like all of life, it is therefore sacred and a manifestation of God’s presence and love.

Change comes slowly: hunger will not be wiped out in a heartbeat. But if more and more people’s hearts beat with love and mercy for the poor, hunger will slowly disappear. Each of us might consider consuming our daily bread in moderation so we can share more of it with those who have none of it.

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