Manna in the Desert
(Body and Blood of Christ: Deuteronomy 2:8-16; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58)
Moses tells his people that God deliberately tested them with afflictions. To modern ears, this is perhaps more shocking than Jesus’ telling his disciples, in the Gospel, to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Every age has its time of testing: persecution, disease, economic collapse, famine, etc. How are we to make sense of this?
Let us read Moses’ words more attentively. God’s purpose was twofold: to “find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments,” and “to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
At La Salette the Blessed Virgin was very much aware of her people’s affliction. She came to beg them to honor God’s commandments. While acknowledging their hunger, she regretted their failure to seek the Bread of Life. “In the summer,” she declares, “only a few elderly women go to Mass. The rest work on Sundays all summer long. In the winter, when they don't know what to do, they go to Mass just to make fun of religion.”
Let us return to Moses, and hear his words in a broader context. Before mentioning the afflictions, he says: “Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert.”
Thus, along with the afflictions of hunger, thirst and serpents, God provided manna, water from the rock, and the bronze serpent.
St. Paul reminds us: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” He wrote this in a time of testing: there were many divisions in the Christian Community of Corinth, and his point was that our sharing in the cup and in the bread makes us one.
The Mass is not just an obligation. It is a precious gift. When we forget this, we forget precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “Do this in memory of me.” He invites us to his table, that we may receive life from the Living Bread, and sustenance in our times of affliction.
Wayne Vanasse and Fr. René Butler, M.S.