In Sunday’s first reading, Israel reaches a place in their relationship with God and each other where going back seems better than going on. The harshness, hunger, and unknowns of the desert transform their memories of being slaves in Egypt. They forget the oppression and remember only the certainty of meat and bread to keep their stomachs full.
The whole congregation of Israel in the desert cries out to Moses, “You have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” They feel the God who opened the sea to their freedom must have abandoned them. Ironically, they think that hunger will kill them, when true hunger for God and the bread God gives are the very things that give them life.
God promises Moses to provide both meat and bread that the people might recognize in the gift the God who gives life, provides, feeds, and accompanies them. God will test their knowing and teach them through this deed. God hears Israel’s cry and acts. Will Israel recognize the deed and its living Source?
Quail come in the evening, and manna in the morning. All goes as God promises. But, when the people see God’s gift, the manna, the Israelites say to one another, “What is it?” This is the meaning of the word; manna is what’s it. The people don’t recognize manna as gift of God to satisfy their hunger and see them on their future way. Moses must explain to them, “It is the bread God has given you to eat.”
The Israelites cry out.
The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the Holy One said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.”
The Holy One spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Holy One your God.’”
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. In morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did now know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Holy One has given you to eat.
- When have you, in the process of doing a task, creating a project or pursuing a relationship, come to a place where going forward seems so difficult or impossible that going back to the way you were seems much better and more desirable?
- Where is God providing you bread and life today?
- Where do you see God providing such bread for the Church or for your civic community?1