19th Sunday in Ordinary Time reflection by Mary Schwarz
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” (John 6:49-50)
There was a time in my life, about five years ago, when I was feeling exhausted by the responsibilities I carried; in fact, I was pretty burnt out. So, I was really looking forward to my annual week-long retreat, where I could be with God and get my strength back. I felt like the “well had run dry” in terms of my capacity to show compassion and love to others in a way that Christ would want me to. So, I showed up on this retreat, ready to be transformed and to get “strong” again. But that didn’t happen. In fact, I was just as exhausted and powerless-feeling after the first few days as I was when I arrived. My times of prayer weren’t very inspiring or consoling either. Lord, don’t you see I need my empty tank to be filled?? Just as I was making this prayer, I noticed the image of the manna. The place where I was doing my retreat used to be an old seminary and the chapel’s stained glass windows depicted key Old Testament events. My eye, at this moment, just happened to notice the depiction of the Israelites gathering their manna for the day – the bread that God had rained down from Heaven for them.
The manna was falling from the sky, and they were gathering it up, but just for the day. In fact, I remembered that God specifically told His people that they need only gather for the day, and if they did try to collect an “extra stash,” it would spoil (cf. Exodus 16:19-20). And then I felt the Lord’s gaze upon me, as I realized He was telling me, do you not understand? You have come to this retreat with the idea that I’m supposed to store up in your suitcase all the graces of love and strength that you think you need to keep serving Me… But I’m not going to fill any suitcase or sack. The Manna is only for the day. “Give us this day, our Daily Bread…” And it hit me: I was trying to hoard. I was trying to control. I was wanting to gather all that I thought would give me security and strength so I could keep going (without the Lord’s continual help). And so I said, okay, Lord… but why? Why can’t you fill my sack with lots of Love so I can be a great saint like you want me to be? And He answered: I want a relationship with You, which means I want you to come to Me daily. If you have your secure supply of graces/strength that gives you security for the mission, you won’t come to Me to find strength. This is why the Manna is just for the day.
The Lord truly is our Manna from Heaven, our Daily Bread. His mercies are new every morning, and His strength is sufficient for each day!