2/28/2013

The Bread for Tomorrow

Elizabeth Keaton, over at Telling Secrets, has a fine short essay "The Lord's Creed."

Go read it.  Wait..wait.  After finishing here.

Her essay reminded me of a sense I had in Haiti of the precariousness of life and the strong sense of abiding under the shadow of God's wings (Psalm 17:8) , a sense of abiding not unlike being protected by the mother hen's outstretched wings (see last week's Gospel, Luke 13:34).

In the Lord's Prayer we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

Every morning however many million people there are in Haiti get up and get at the day's work.  For a great many people in Haiti the day's work is making just enough, or finding just enough,  for the day itself, just enough to get through the day with a bit of food, some water, and some kind of place to sleep.  The margin is so close between getting by and not having enough to keep energy going that the prayer makes immediate good sense, "Give us this day our daily bread."  The food for today is  part of the confidence in Bondye, the Good God, that  the Good God will provide.

This trust in the providence of God could be passive. But it isn't. My sense is that most Haitians arise to the day and its tasks with the kind of hustle and confidence that belongs to the active side of the prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Pray for the bread for today, and work for the bread of tomorrow.  My sense is that Haitians engage God's providence as part of a larger faith commitment to tomorrow. It can be literally the work for tomorrow's bread, it can be the confidence that by one of many ways even the poorest can widen the margin between disaster and crisis, between acute and chronic want.  It is amazing to see children coming out of the shacks and tents ready to go to school. There the promise is that God, the good God, will provide not just the bread for today, but the bread for tomorrow.

The bread for tomorrow.  Some have suggested that this is precisely what the Lord's Prayer means. That God will sustain us for the journey, the tomorrow of the reign of God. 

I think that is intriguing, but for the moment I am only suggesting this: The prayer that God will give us this day our daily bread is so that we might get to tomorrow. And in Haiti and here and everywhere tomorrow is the day where our energy today, given by God, leads us. And the bread of tomorrow is both God's and ours to provide, God giving us the energy today.

Psalm 91 is a favorite psalm in Haiti. It begins,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”


The great shelter that is God's grace provides refuge and gives strength. And tomorrow's bread in the hand today is its great hope. 

Remembering that it is not a good idea to put God to the test, the formula for good spiritual practice seems to be: Today is in God's hands. But preparing for tomorrow is in ours. Do not put God to the test. 

So it is, "Give us today our daily bread" so that we might have energy to work for the bread of tomorrow.

Thanks Elizabeth for provoking a small ramble here.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Your rambles are so much more articulate than my essays, Mark. Thank you for this insight into Haiti.

How 'bout that cuppa joe? Sometime soon, perhaps? It might just inspire and early Spring.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Fr. Mark - A touch of reality in a world of chimera.

Ron Miller said...

I have been missing you and your posts. Hope things are OK and you are just otherwise occupied. Best wishes, Ron Miller