Our daily bread
Angelus News May 6, 2016
May is Mary’s Month. It is a new moment in the springtime of the year when we reflect on the love that our Blessed Mother showed to us in bringing Jesus into the world.
As I was reflecting on this week’s column, I found myself wondering: Did Our Lady ever pray the Our Father?
The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Mary was with the apostles in the first Christian community that gathered in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. We are told that together they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”
As we know, when the apostles had asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the Our Father. So it is possible and fascinating to think that the prayer we pray today might have been prayed by Mary as well as the Apostles.
Mary was a woman of prayer, long before the Angel brought her the tidings and promises of Jesus. Only a prayerful person could have said “yes” to God in that moment of the Annunciation.
Mary’s “fiat” — her words to the Angel, “May it be done to me according to your word” — is echoed in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls these words a model of true prayer: “Fiat: This is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s, because God is wholly ours.”
Prayer, as Jesus teaches, is about joining our lives to God’s and our will to his will.
We see this clearly in the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” These are words of trust and surrender to divine Providence.
The purpose of prayer is not about telling God what we need. God knows what we need even before we ask. When we pray to God “this day” for our “daily bread,” we are making a confession — that without him we cannot feed ourselves; that he alone can provide us with what we need.
Again, we see how the Lord’s Prayer is a challenge to our selfishness and pride, all our illusions of self-sufficiency.
No matter who we are or how much we have or how hard we work — what do we really possess that we have not received from the grace of God? Everything we have and everything we achieve depends on his goodness. That is the spirit of the prayer that Jesus teaches.
That does not mean we are meant to sit around passively and wait for God to give us things. Jesus wants us to pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on us.
Notice that Jesus teaches us to pray for “our” bread. We are praying not just for ourselves but also for others — especially those who do not have enough daily bread to live.
Reflecting on this passage, I was reminded of the Gospel scenes of Jesus feeding the crowds of people. In one, he tells his disciples: “Give them some food yourselves.”
We are praying to be true children of God and that means we need to imitate Jesus in a radical sharing of our daily bread with our brothers and sisters, in working for justice so that everyone can enjoy what is necessary for a dignified life.
In everything, Jesus calls us to trust in God’s Providence, that he will provide. We pray for our daily bread but we cannot allow ourselves to be consumed by material concerns. Jesus said: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”
The bread we pray for is not only the ordinary “bread” we need to sustain our bodies.
So since the Church’s earliest days, the Church has understood “our daily bread” to refer also to the Eucharist.
Jesus testified that he was the “bread of God” that came down from heaven to give life to the world. So in this prayer we are asking for Jesus to come and to give himself to us in his Word and in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood. We pray like those first disciples who said: “Give us this bread always.”
So this week, as we begin the month of Mary, let’s try to pray the Rosary for one another.
And as we begin each decade of the Rosary with the Our Father, let’s consider that this prayer has been prayed by the apostles and saints, by Jesus and perhaps even by his mother.
And let us ask her, our Blessed Mother Mary, to help us to pray as children, knowing that our Father will care for us in even our smallest needs.