by Father Mike Stubbs
For a number of years now, Catholics have been able to attend Sunday Mass on Saturday evening. That is because, according to the ancient way of thinking, the day begins at evening and runs until the following evening.
That goes contrary to the modern way of thinking, which reckons the day from midnight to midnight. Liturgically speaking, Saturday evening is the beginning of Sunday.
This ancient way of reckoning time is reflected in the Bible’s first creation account. After each day of creation, we hear the words along the lines of: “Thus evening came, and morning followed — the first day” (Gn 1:5).
This reference to the day is also reflected in Sunday’s first reading, Ex 16:2-4, 12-15: “In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread.”
God is speaking to the Israelites. Contrary to their fears and expectations, God has not led them out of Egypt into the desert to starve to death. God will feed them.
In the evening, God will send quail which will provide the flesh (meat) for the Israelites to eat. In the mornings, during the day, they will find bread-like manna covering the ground. And this will happen every day. Throughout their trek to the Promised Land, the Israelites will subsist on meat and bread, the two staples of their diet.
The Israelites had complained about the lack of food. And now that this need has been satisfied, they will find something else to complain about. There is no limit to their demands.
Fortunately, there is no limit to God’s love. God will continue to care for them, despite their unreasonableness. At the same time, while God will provide for their needs, God will set some restrictions for them to follow.
For example, the Israelites are to gather only enough food for that day, except for the Sabbath, when they are to gather none, but they are to gather a double portion on the preceding day:
“Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.”
God gives gifts in abundance, sufficient for our needs. At the same time, God imposes restrictions on how we are to use those gifts.
In the Our Father, we ask God for our daily bread. We request what we need, not necessarily what we desire or want. In doing that, we focus upon our basic, immediate needs for that day. We follow in the footsteps of the Israelites, who turned to God for manna, day by day.