Bread from Heaven
“Whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Gospel)
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, God did one miracle after another for them. He got water from a rock for them; and, when they were hungry, he fed them with bread from heaven. “Mah nah?—what is this?” the Israelites asked when they saw it; and ‘manna’ has been its name ever since.
Why didn’t God just miraculously produce real, ordinary bread for them?
Moses answers this question in his speech to the people: God fed them with manna so that they might know one does not live by bread alone. If God had fed them ordinary bread, they wouldn’t have learned the lesson. As it was, first they hungered, and then they were fed miraculously with the who-knows-what-this-is bread from heaven. And so they learned to trust in God, who fed them with what they needed to live.
But this is only half the lesson, as Moses explains it: one does not live by bread alone; what else is needed is the word of God.
And so, when the time was right, the only-begotten Word of God came so that people might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
That is why Christ said that he was the true bread from heaven. One does not live by bread alone but by this true Word of God.
And, by a miracle which completes the lesson of the manna, this Word is the bread of life for all the faithful. The Word of God and the bread from heaven are present here as one.
In the Eucharist, then, there is everything that one needs to live, if one will only learn the lesson and trust in the God who feeds his people with himself.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University