Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice?

Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice? February 29, 2012
Just not the same as bread…

“Three types of bread are to be asked from the Lord when using the formula, ‘Give us our daily bread,’ that is the word of God, the Eucharistic bread, and bread for the body.”    – Blessed James Alberione

Every morning, the sisters in my convent meditate on the day’s Gospel for a half hour before morning prayer. Recently, I was sitting in chapel meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. I was specifically meditating on the best word in the entire prayer – BREAD.

Those of you who know me, are probably not surprised that this is my favorite word in the prayer. I am a bit obsessed with baking bread. There is something so elemental about it. Aside from baking bread and building tree houses, I don’t think there is much more one needs to know to survive in this world, (so I just have one more skill to learn). But then as my mind wandered into the delicious taste of freshly baked bread smothered in butter, a mind blowing, earth shaking thought, (for a bread lover like me), suddenly came to my mind.

If Jesus had been teaching in China, he probably would have said, “Give us this day our daily RICE.”

Ok, I know I am losing some people here, (at least the normal ones). But, honestly it’s when I have strange, off the wall thoughts like this that my meditations get good. And really, it is true. Some cultures do not eat much bread.  I imagine a person who evangelizes in some parts of Asia has to explain this one to confused people who are obsessed with rice, much like I am obsessed with bread. 

Before you wonder why I waste time on tangents like this in prayer, I will point out that thinking about the cultural limitations of the word “bread” led me to ponder why Jesus used that earthy word to describe our needs, both physical and spiritual. 

For most cultures, bread is a staple. It’s as basic as you can get. It is what we need to survive.

So what is this bread Jesus tells us to ask for?

Catholics immediately point to the Eucharist. It is our daily bread (or rice, depending on where you live). Literally. It appears to be bread, but it is really God. (How crazy is that?)

But there is another dimension to the use of the word bread that only recently became clear to me. Now, maybe I am a little slow or just too Catholic, but I always thought of the Eucharist as my “daily bread” and had not, until recently, thought of the Word of God when I prayed that part of the Our Father. That is so embarrassing to admit and Protestants reading this are probably saying, “What?!? What is wrong with those Catholics?” but I just have to be honest (and reaffirm age-old stereotypes).

Oh bread, I love you more than life itself.

Now, as I am taking a class on the Old Testament, I am realizing why I had this blind spot.  I did not appreciate the presence of God in Scripture as I did in the Eucharist because my knowledge and understanding of Scripture, especially the Old Testament, was woefully inadequate. As I read Scripture now, and really look at how Jesus speaks, I realize that Scripture was Jesus’ daily bread. This was a man who lived and breathed the words of the Scriptures. He is constantly quoting them,  referring to Old Testament prophecies and insisting on the necessity of their fulfillment. His entire life revolved around the Word of God, (which should come as no surprise because He is the Word of God incarnate). He is the living, breathing walking Scripture. And this is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges us to venerate Scripture as we venerate the Eucharist.

There are many great works of literature out there but only one is written by God. You could take a class on Scripture for the rest of your life and never plumb the treasures that are available in the Word, just as none of us will ever plumb the depths of the mystery of God Himself.

Jesus wants us to munch on his Word everyday, in more ways than one. He gives us the Eucharist so that we can be spiritually nourished in a way that involves our entire bodies and he gives us the Word that nourishes both our minds and hearts with its many layers of meaning, mysteries and puzzles. (And he gives us delicious bread to fill our tummies and keep us physically well, which is necessary for spiritual wellness!)

This Lent dear Jesus, please give us our daily bread. Help us to read your Scripture with the same voracious appetite we have when scarfing down a good piece of bread. Your Word is the stuff that will satisfy us. You are the person who satiates our every need. Please be with us this Lent in your Word and in your Eucharist and bring us closer to your divine life. Amen.

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