The first reading at Mass today, the 18th Sunday of the Year, reminds us of the moaning and groaning people of Israel, and of the gift of manna (and quails) that sustains them during their desert wanderings.
The context of the Liturgy, and Christian Tradition, means we will focus more on the manna than the quails. Indeed the compilers of the Lectionary chose this reading to accompany today’s Gospel reading with its talk of the bread of heaven that is Christ, the antitype to the type of the bread gifted by God to Israel.
The whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.
‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’
And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’
Israel does not sound too impressed at the gift of manna! And we do not hear here of any appreciation of the quail either! Yet these gifts keep them alive…
- What comes our way, as gift from God? Are we able to accept it gratefully, appreciatively?
- Do we live by faith? Or live according to our own lights, our agenda? And if it is a bit of both, then what’s the balance and what makes for the difference?