Scripture: Lectionary 407. Aug. 5. Ordinary Time readings. Numbers 11:4-15. Psalm 81:12-13,14-15,16-17. Matthew 14:13-21:

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You have recognized in our first readings that we have moved from the first book of the Torah called Genesis to the fourth book Numbers. We pass quickly in these selections for our continued readings. Perhaps, this is an incentive for us to read the entire Pentateuch for the rest of this year. Starting with Genesis we move through Deuteronomy, the last book or scroll of the Torah. We then may be encouraged to look at the whole of the Old Testament which is called by an acronym in Hebrew –Tanach. The symbolic construct word means the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings each having two words of the acronym: Ta=Torah, Na= Prophets, Ch=Writings.

Numbers contains mostly historical material and is easily divided into the following parts: Chapters 1-19 deals with the wandering generation of Israelites in the desert of Sinai; Chapters 20-36 with those entering the promised land; the last part with Joshua replacing the leadership of Moses who will not enter the promised land. There are also expansions of the laws found in Exodus and Leviticus.

In my reading the first reading for today (Numbers 11:4-15) I related it to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This actually happened for those who were wandering in the desert. The Lord rained down the Manna upon them to sustain them in their journey before entering the promised land (see Exodus 16:4-35. a parallel to Numbers 11: 6-8). A commentary on this event says that its spiritual significance is explained in the passage:”(God) fed thee with Manna that he might make thee know that man does not leave by bread only but by everything that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

In the Gospel we have one of the six narratives that describe Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish to feed the hungry crowd(s) that gathered in the hills of Galilee. The scenes are in all four Gospels and Matthew and Mark have two feeding miracles. This is called “multiple attestation” in the scholarly world of exegesis.

I interpreted it personally as the nourishment I receive in the Eucharist which is celebrated each day. It is the spiritual nourishment that unites us to Christ who is the Bread of Life. The words used in these narratives are used in the Eucharistic Prayers of the Church. Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses the loaves and fish, breaks them into pieces, and has them distributed. Twelve baskets remain! Nothing is lost. I am then fed spiritually with the precious gift of the presence of Jesus veiled under the elements of bread and wine which are consecrated. I was then led back to the final verse of the Responsorial Psalm:”Israel I would feed with the best of wheat, with honey from the rock I would fill them(Psalm 81:17).

The word used for “daily” is epiousion, a rare Greek word that can be translated differently as tomorrow’s, daily, needful, or future. Lohmeyer, a renowned German exegete states, “the bread then is earthly bread, the bread of the poor and needy, and, at the same time, because of the eschatological hour in which it is prayed for and eaten, it is the future bread in this today, the bread of the elect and the blessed.” And John Meier agrees with my reflection by saying, “Prayed at the liturgy, the prayer would envision the eucharist as the anticipation of the final banquet.”

Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.