Posted on March 13th, 2013
I was a teenager when my grandparents sold their farm west of the Twin Cities and moved to a house in Litchfield, a town of about 6,000 people. The most particular memory I have of helping them move was the fascination at all the scraps of tinfoil my grandmother had saved, and more twist-ties than anyone could possibly need. She was a saver, which is what living through the Great Depression as a young woman will do to you. Listen again to the end of today’s first reading:
“Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.”
Where are these people? In the wilderness. What’s their biggest problem at the moment? Food. That person is pious indeed who eats all his food trusting God will provide more tomorrow.
Why do we collect things, accumulate things, even hoard things? Why do we have drawers, closets, entire rooms full of stuff we don’t use? Some things we have difficulty parting with because of the memories attached to them. We sense time slipping by and are incapable of freezing the moment or recreating the past. So we keep items as memories. Other things we cling to out of fear – not a paralyzing phobia, but the gnawing, often subconscious experience of mortality. We know things break, get lost or stolen or spoiled. Stockpiled reserves mean we’re safe for another day.
God was teaching them already the Our Father.
For the Hebrews led by Moses, God was teaching them already the Our Father, here in particular the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He gave them enough for each day. Like little birds, they went out each morning to gather what God provided. Eden was breaking back in on the wilderness. God was providing bread without work. There was no planting seed or harvesting grain, no grinding or kneading or baking. Just bread, directly from God. And water from rocks, streams of water flowing in the desert. In the wilderness of the fallen world, Eden was breaking back in. But then came the command to just live day-by-day.
“Let no one leave any of it over till the morning”? No thank you, Moses; there’s no guarantee there will be more in the morning. It’s better to hold some back. The big issues of our day, such as gun control and health insurance, or the concern of those ancient Hebrews over whether they’d have food the next morning – it’s all part of what the Bible calls the “fear of death.” We’re looking for guarantees for survival, today and into the future, but no such guarantees can be found. Death wins, every time.
The book of Hebrews says this is why God became man: Jesus partook of flesh and blood “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (2:14-15).
That fear of death bubbles forth in different ways for each of us, as we are uncertain what tomorrow will bring. In the wilderness, the Lord through Moses said to the Jews, “Trust Me.” At the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus taught the despairing disciples, “Trust Me,” and fed the multitude.
And now, as you journey through your own wilderness, far from Eden, He says to you, “Trust Me.” But this is hard, for you suffer the consequences of the fall. Some of that you inherited from your parents, even back to our first parents. Some of it you’ve brought on yourself, by your own grumbling and greed, pride and envy, fear and folly. You’ve lusted after what God has withheld, and held back what you should have shared.
And then, you suffer the consequences of the sins of others. It’s real and it hurts. And as the anger toward Moses was really anger towards God, you may have been angry with God, not understanding why, how He could allow such things to come upon you.
But as once to hungry Hebrews God said, “In the morning you shall be filled with bread,” and as once Jesus said to despairing disciples, “Make the people sit down,” and gave them bread in abundance, so now our Lord Jesus says to you, “Have you not heard of My resurrection? Do you not know that I have conquered death? Though now you suffer for a little while this dark night, it is a short time until morning. I will do for you even as I said; surely I will raise you from the dead. Trust Me.”
Today, Laetare, rejoicing Sunday, everything begins anew.
Today, Laetare, rejoicing Sunday, everything begins anew. Did you make plans for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving at the beginning of Lent? No? Begin anew this week. Did you make plans for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving at the beginning of Lent, and then fell away? That’s okay. Today, Laetare Sunday, the church bids us sing, “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her!” Come with sins aplenty and leave them here; come with empty stomachs and broken dreams and be filled and consoled, for your Lord with an outstretched arm will redeem you.
Here again Jesus takes bread, gives thanks and distributes to His disciples, saying, “I will give you day by day your bread for today. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Here in this Sacrament is pardon for your sins and strength for your journey. I promise to see you through in safety to the other side.” ∗