Remember the Exodus instructions to the people Israel in the desert? Each morning, they may collect only enough “manna” to feed them for the day (Exod 16:4-15). Thus, they need to go forth each morning to collect this grain from heaven. If they collected more than needed for one day, it would rot overnight. The obvious lesson teaches the people that they need to depend upon the Lord each day for their food. If they could collect enough for a week and it remained fresh, the danger might arise that the people would neglect the Lord on the other days. The daily task reminds them of how much they need their God. Proverbs captures this truth for us in a simple prayer: “Provide me only with the food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’” (Prov 30:8-9)
When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he includes this idea in the Our Father. He instructs them (and us) to say: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). We, too, need to turn to the Lord each day. Our common experience makes the truth of this phrase clear. I wonder about Jesus and his life in Nazareth. Did he see Joseph as that bread-winner who provided regular sustenance for the table—and perhaps only enough for each day. Did this precious experience enable Jesus to know how important a constant reliance on the Father was in his life? Did it help him to understand what it meant to say “daily bread?”
God does not wind up our world like a clock and let it run (as some images of creation have suggested). Each day our world draws from him life and order—our daily bread. Simple bread can symbolize the great universe that the Divine has made and within which he sustains us.
So often the blessedness of the poor flows from their awareness of need. They know the essentials of life and they pray for them with a fervor that flows from experience. Not just bread, but water, wine, warmth and work are daily necessities for them as are clean air, fertile soil, education for their children, care for their afflicted and peace in their land. These are, of course, basics for every human being but the poor feel the need with more immediate intensity. They are most often close to the edge. They pray for this “daily bread” in the hunger of the moment. Their holiness rests in their recourse to the maker of all to attend to them and to those whom they love.
In the home at Nazareth, Joseph appeared in the eyes of his loved ones as the one who provides the daily bread. His love and labor arrive at the family table as food and drink. (Honestly, that makes me think about the complementary movement of how the bread and wine that we bring to the altar at the Eucharist translate into word and action expressed in love.)
This situation reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the workers hired throughout a day; all of them receive the same “usual daily wage.” What is the point of that insistence in Jesus’ lesson? Does it have application when we pray that “our Father” will give us “our daily bread?” (Did Joseph earn the equivalent of a “usual daily wage?”)
The notion of connecting Joseph in the mind of Jesus to the gift of “daily bread” captures my heart. I see how Jesus would associate this nourishment with the Heavenly Father. Who looks to us for their daily bread of whatever substance?