After the morning dew had evaporated, Moses instructed the Hebrews to gather the hoarfrost-like substance that was left on the ground. They had never seen this before but were told it would be their “daily bread” every morning and they would learn to use it in many different ways. Naturally, they were curious and asked each other, “What is it?” The Hebrew word for this phrase is, Manna, and that is what they would call their daily provision: “What is it?”
It is difficult to imagine eating the same thing for 40 years, every day, manna in the morning and quail in the evening. They were a stiff-necked and impatient people, not much different than we can too often be, and they grumbled against God through His emissary, Moses. More than once, God would test their faith and trust in Him by causing some affliction to remind them how much worse the desert of life without God could be. They would then repent and rededicate themselves to His loving and providential care.
Today’s Gospel follows last week’s miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude with just five barley loaves and two fish. He enters into a teaching moment for his followers, now well satisfied, with His bread of life discourse, transcending the basic satisfactions of earthly food to the higher and more profound bread that would nourish us in this world and lead us to Life with God—Life that will have no pain or difficulty or sadness but be filled with joy and will never end.
This discourse caused consternation among His followers as they tried to grasp what He meant when He declared definitively to them, “I am the bread of life.” How could He do this? Does He really mean it or is He speaking symbolically? Many would say, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and they would leave.
The questions still persist today and many consider His words to be merely symbolic. Those of us who believe, might also harbor some natural human doubt, forgetting to see in the simplicity of the host, the Bread of Life. It might serve us well to look at it with the wonder of Faith and contemplate, “What it is!”