Bread from Heaven
BY JULIE SCHUMACHER COHEN | August 2, 2021
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.
What will be required of me is the question that Julie posses to us. As the psalmist says we are required to be generous. Every time I have the courage to give, I receive 100 fold in return. If I give money, it comes back in grace and love. If I give my time and talent, the Lord knows I am wanting others to know their gifts and abilities and use them in service to others. If I watch as someone is given a turn to shine, I am filled with the hope and the love of the God who loves us all and watches us bloom into the life and love He wants for all of us. In the midst of striving for social justice, we feel a sense of joy when the immigrants who are wanting to be in this country receive a fair way of receiving this gift. It is beautiful to see prisoners being taught how to utilize their abilities to the advantage of all. Those who are oppressed want us to join with them in creating a story of love and hope for others. We are in a better place because of our attention to social justice issues, let us all continue to assist those oppressed so they may be set free in the kingdom.
I have always believed in the Gospel of Bounty. There will ALWAYS be enough. Enough of everything, for everyone. God is the Lord of the harvest. May I always be ready to give, and to be satisfied, with enough.
Sharing adds life to our lifespan. When I was hungry, you gave me to eat – says the Lord. Nature produces sufficient for every one’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed, was often said by Mahatma Gandhi.