Some weeks in this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church I have tried to cover 50, or sometimes even 80, articles of the 2,865 in the whole work … This week we are considering a mere 10! We are studying the Our Father, so as to think about our own prayer life and prayer style. Today’s phrase to think about is the 1st of the petitions that ‘ask for something’: Give us this day our daily bread.
Having given God the honour due to Him in the earlier parts of the Our Father — having committed ourselves to honouring His Name, building up His Kingdom, and doing His Will, we now place ourselves humbly before our Maker and ask for what we need for life. Give us this day our daily bread. A few things are immediately apparent, aren’t they? Firstly that we are asking for the basics, and not for riches or a lavish lifestyle. We are asking for what we really need, what we need to keep us alive and provide for our family. It echoes some beautiful words in the Old Testament, in the wise Book of Proverbs: Give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of bread to eat, for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away and say, “The Lord? Who is the Lord?” Or else, in destitution, take to stealing and profane the name of my God. (Prov 30:8–9)
Asking God in the Our Father for “our daily bread” also manifests a total trust that God will care for us. In fact, in the Gospel of Matthew, in his introduction to teaching them the Our Father, Jesus specifically says: In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Mt 6:7) It is not the quantity of words in prayer that expresses our trust and desire to be cared for by our heavenly Father, is it? It’s the faith with which it is expressed, and this can be said in those few little words, addressed with love to our Father: give us this day our daily bread, please. God indeed knows our needs, but He desires that we express this need in our turning to Him. Not that He wishes to withhold His gifts … but how pleased He is, how delighted when His children turn to Him and recognise His presence, and His goodness. ‘Give us, today, Lord, what we need for today, as tomorrow will have enough cares of its own.’ We should take each day as it comes, calling on the Lord to give us strength for the day; and trusting Him as a child would its parent.
The word “daily” may not strike us as at all a strange word in the Our Father, but in fact that word translated as “daily” in our version is a unique word (a hapax legomenon) in the New Testament, and its meaning is debated. Apart from “that which we need to live,” the word probably also points to a spiritual meaning. Let’s not forget Jesus other words, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When we ask for our daily bread, we need more than just bread for our bodies; we need food for our souls too. So, it would be a natural extension to our understanding of this line of the Our Father to see it as pointing also to the ‘Bread of Life,’ that’s to say, Jesus in the Eucharist. The Church offers the Eucharist indeed each and every day to nourish us and feed us with the sacrifice and presence of Our Lord Jesus Himself. When we pray for “our daily bread” we pray also for the opportunity and the grace to value also the Mass and never neglect the ‘Bread from Heaven’ which is Our Blessed Lord’s body & blood in Holy Communion. We need that just as much as, and in fact, more than, our daily material bread.
Finally, this petition in the Our Father also should remind us of the command of Our Lord to “feed the hungry … clothe the naked …” As a parish we have begun supporting the local FoodBank, partly financially, and partly with parishioners’ volunteering their time and effort — feeding the hungry of our own locality, and this is important. Pope Francis has kept on our agenda this demand of the Gospel to care for the poor, and his visit to Assisi on Friday reminded us of this very forcefully as he ate his lunch with the poor homeless people and refugees in a Caritas centre in Assisi run by the friars. We, today, have another chance to feed the hungry and assist the poor as we make our collection after Friday’s CaFOD Harvest fast day. CaFOD asks you, “Who will you invite to your table this Harvest Fast Day?” — who will you invite to share your daily bread? 1 in 8, is the statistic for the world: 1 in 8 will go to sleep hungry every night. If we are going to ask God Himself for “our daily bread,” then we must also be prepared to help Him distribute that bread around the people of the world. Please give generously after Mass to CaFOD, and remember the hungry as you pray the Our Father before Communion. If we are to receive the Eucharist in true faith, receiving that gift of true life from God, then we must also be prepared to share our daily bread with the hungry, and give them the bread for life.