Today is traditionally the day that Corpus Christi, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, was celebrated. Unfortunately, in my view, it has been moved to Sunday (it deserves its own special day). Nevertheless, today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:7-15) provides a particular insight to the Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament. It also reinforces the importance of a directive of Christ that most of us have become too familiar with, the Lord’s Prayer. And within that entreaty, an emphasis on what I would argue is its most challenging petition.
There is a particularly unusual wording in the Our Father that I would wager has not been considered by just about everyone who has recited this prayer innumerable times. That is,
Give us this day our daily breadMt 6:11
“Day” and “daily”? Why not just say, “Give us bread/food today”? Why this strange repetition?
“Daily” (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of “this day,” to confirm us in trust “without reservation.” Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us. Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.
The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive. . . . This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.
The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.CCC 2837
So every Catholic, every Christian, that says this prayer is asking for this “supersubstantial bread.” Remember these words of Jesus during the Bread of Life discourse:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.Jn 6:53
A few moments after Jesus gave this teaching nearly all His followers left Him. This is how important the great gift of the Eucharist is. And why we should want everyone to be Catholic.
It is at Mass that we receive this transubstantiated bread, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. We are blessed if we can go each day to Mass. But if it is not possible, let us at least say the following prayer on those days that we cannot attend the Holy Sacrifice:
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
For a fine related article, see https://catholicexchange.com/our-supersubstantial-bread/.
This Gospel passage gives us the one instance in which Jesus tells us how to pray. Pretty important, don’t you think, since it comes from our Savior’s own lips? Certainly required recitation at least daily. But let me encourage you to pray it more frequently than once a day. Add it to other formal prayers, when praying for a special intention, and as an “introduction” to any conversation with God.
The Lord’s Prayer has been broken down into seven petitions. Much fruitful time can be spent just focusing on one of these petitions. Meditate on it. Consider how it is playing out in your life. How can you better fulfill the requirements of the petition on your end?
In fact, you can work through this prayer nearly word-by-word in this fashion. Start with “Our.” Yes, the prayer is often said in groups, but Jesus’ instruction is for anyone saying the prayer, with others, or alone. So, no matter the setting, each of us individually is in this together with all other Christians. Even that fellow who despises you. Even the relative to whom you haven’t spoken in years over a dispute the cause of which may have faded in the mists of time. And, yes, even the C & E (Christmas and Easter) Catholic standing in the back of the church, looking a bit confused, on those two holiest of days. How are we honoring our common Father in the way we behave toward each other?
It has long struck me, quite uncomfortably I must admit as I consider my own disposition at times, that Jesus feels the need to repeat and expand upon one of the petitions after concluding the prayer:
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.Mt 6:14-15
It’s as if the Lord is saying, “I know this is a tough one, but I really mean it.” This should send a shiver down our collective spines. Consider this in light of all the other petitions in this prayer. Can we legitimately ask for all the rest if we don’t fulfill this one?
For everything else this prayer is, it is also a fine examination of conscience.
Our blessed Lord knew what He was doing.
I get annoyed when common words are appropriated for immoral causes. Can anyone say “partner” or “choice” or “transition” anymore without qualifying it?
In case you just came out of a coma, you are likely aware that this is “Pride” month. This is one term I don’t mind giving up, though,.per just a few examples from Scripture:
In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (Ps 10:4)
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18)
I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless. (Isa 13:11)
Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride (Ezek 16:56)
For in pride there is ruin and great confusion (Tob 4:13)
The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord;
his heart has forsaken his Maker. (Sir 10:12)
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. (Mk 7:21-22)
Instead, let us follow St. Paul’s lead:
[M]ay I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus ChristGal 6;14
Let everyone embrace humility in order to emulate God and be an example to the world. Starting with me.
Summer vacation is here, so the move is already under way to devour a bunch of books before school begins again.
Since my last post, I can recommend several books since completed:
- Benedict XVI: A Life (Volume II): The definitive work on the life of Benedict; then add Benedict XVI: Last Testament to round it out.
- Jesus, The New Elijah by Paul Hinnebusch: You’ll never look at Elijah or Jesus the same way again; a treasure from the 70’s worth finding.
- Walking with Mary by Edward Sri: Fantastic journey through the Gospels with Mary and a fine guide whose insights will make you love Our Lady all the more; an excellent book for a Protestant friend who loves Scripture and may learn to appreciate Jesus’ mom much more.
- Calming the Storm by Fr. Gerald Murray: I’ve followed this priest for years on EWTN; his calm, clear, and measured evaluation of the current state of affairs in the Church and the world are needed in this time of confusion.
- The Navarre Bible: I’ve worked through all the Gospels in this series with its phenomenal commentary rich in spiritual insights.
Find my reviews on Goodreads.