Yesterday’s readings relay a story of God’s plentiful care in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety. In Exodus, we read about “bread from heaven” rained on the Israelites in the desert. In the Psalm, the material and metaphysical nature of the sustenance is portrayed: “Man ate the bread of angels.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus is understood as providing an infinite bread, in the life he pours out in his death and resurrection and the practice of the Eucharist to come—“This is my body which is given for you.”
These foods from God have a mystical quality—providing all that we need and more than we could hope for. The Israelites “shall have your fill,” the Psalmist describes the food’s “abundance,” and in John the bread—Jesus—“gives life to the world.” From these words, we do not conjure up images of an officious God doling out square lumps of the heavenly bread. We are not destined to scramble for meager scraps. Rather, there is good news: God wants to feed us—to free us from want—to provide a satisfying banquet. How then should we respond?
Identifying what we need—what will truly fill us and fulfill us—has become increasingly muddled in the midst of mass consumerism and where multi-million dollar recreational space travel distracts us from Earth, grabbing headlines and funds. What we hope for can also be diminished by a scarcity mindset.
Is there enough justice to address systemic anti-Black racism? Are there enough resources to provide a living wage and affordable housing? Can we find enough time to teach a full American history? Do we have enough room for more refugees and immigrants? What will be required of me?
A fear of giving up power or privilege, of taking risks, of disrupting a comfortable status quo can hold us back as a nation, as institutions of higher education, as communities, as individuals. But God wants something different for us. Despite our human tendencies toward selfishness and the hoarding of grace, God’s outpouring remains vast, and thus, with it comes a call to both rejoice and participate—to make possible the breaking of heavenly bread, together.
Julie Schumacher Cohen is assistant vice president for community engagement and government affairs at the University of Scranton, where she focuses on community-based learning, political dialogue, refugee solidarity, and other civic engagement initiatives. Prior to Scranton, she worked for NGOs to advance peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Cohen is a doctoral student in political science at Temple University and an alumna of the Ignatian Colleagues Program.