Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Sirach 48:1-14; Matthew 6:7-15)
Although the Sermon on the Mount appears as a long discourse, it is a compendium of many of Jesus’ sayings. The evangelist, whom we call “Matthew,” put the statements together to form the basic Christian teaching on morality. The Our Father is found at the center of the Sermon. Its seven petitions are also neatly arranged although this work was likely done by Jesus himself. At the center of the prayer Jesus tells his listeners to petition, “Give us this day our daily bread…” It needs to be asked why this request sits in the critical place.
It seems that in asking for “daily bread,” one merely requests daily sustenance. Apparently the petitioner is asking the Lord that she not starve. But this earthly request would undermine the exalted level of the prayer. It does not sit well with the petitions for the coming of the Kingdom, for example, or even that one’s sins might be forgiven. Scholars have found, however, that epiousion, the original Greek word translated as “daily,” means future as well. What is being petitioned, then, is the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Then why don’t we say, “Give us this day our Eucharistic bread”? Our question is perhaps best answered in a utilitarian way. The words of the Our Father have become so familiar that they cannot be changed without creating resistance. Despite the fact that other of its words like hallowed and trespasses are no longer in common use, they as well as “daily bread” are retained to facilitate frequent repetition of the prayer. Of course, we should not say the words mindlessly but try to contemplate their meaning.