There is nothing we can personally do to make God love us more — nor less.
I was recently making my annual retreat in northern Wisconsin. Several times during those eight days, a gathering of courting loons would encircle a female and uluate, warble, dance, frolic and do all kinds of strutting to attract lovely loon-lady to be his monogamous mate. Approval is the ticket for life, but I could never figure out how the lucky loon found out he had gotten her attention and attraction. I assume that took place in the privacy of their under-water world.
God is more than we know of love. Our human loving is limited; it has a beginning and ending. God is not attracted, dazzled or approving of us, God’s love depends on Who God is! We cannot dance, hoot, gyrate or even plead so that God will love us. This is a form of Poverty of Spirit, but our richness of spirit is our being open and receptive and not merely according to our specifications.
We can dance, frolic, do handstands and sing so as to be more available to the love that is beyond being looney.
Moses has been having a hard time of it since bringing his oppressed people out of Egypt in the Exodus. They are very early in their forty-year journey of faith. In the preceding chapter the people grumbled about their being thirsty and when they found water it was bitter. Moses complained or prayed to God and so the water was made potable. They pitched camp there, but had to move on towards the “wilderness” and so grow thirsty again and hungry. This tension forms the context for our being introduced in the First Reading, to the Israelites’ complaining.
They do the whole “poor me” as a community. Things were terrible back in the bad old days, but they did have “fleshpots” from which to gain nourishment! They are disappointed in their leaders, but this time Moses does not have to make any requests. God comes to their rescue, but with an instruction which they must follow. God is teaching them ever so slowly to listen and obey for their own good. This teacher-student relationship forms the context for much of the Hebrew Scriptures.
We hear of the great event of God’s responding to grumbling and regret. God rains down bread and meat. Their journey is going to be a long one and with God’s continuing to be faithful, they will grow in their being faithful in response.
“Eating” for Jesus means taking in the whole “loaf”, the entirety of him as the one “sent” and “sealed” by his Father who is at this very moment giving Jesus as “bread” for eternal life. Believing is “eating” and for Jesus, and “eating” means more than saying “Yes, I believe”. It means living out the life which “The Bread of Life” came to give. My young nephew, while sitting in the back seat of his mother’s car with a hamburger in one hand and fries on his lap, just having pulled out of McDonald’s, asked his mother, “Where are we going to eat after we eat next?” I have a younger brother who is honestly, quite worried about there being “enough” food at his home or the home of those who invite him for dinner. Our Jewish ancestors had their similar worries. Will God be faithful? Will we survive? Will God get us out there and abandon us? Will there really be “enough”?
“Our daily bread” contains many grains of nourishment. It is about doing God’s will by receiving what God is giving us at any one moment and sometimes it can seem like crumbs, or crust, or quite stale. We too ask God many times, about where we will eat after we eat next. “Our daily bread” is God’s love, shared through the Eucharist, but eating more of the life of grace, the life of God’s love, after we eat the Eucharist next time. That Holy Bread, containing in Him all “sweetness” is God’s pledge that we will not be abandoned or left to go our own way grumbling that we did not get enough.
“You have given us, o Lord, bread from heavenendowed with all delights and sweetness in every taste.” Wis. 16, 20,
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