Many, a mom in large families struggles to meet the different likes of her children, husband and elderly parents at the dining table. While children dote on fast food and fried items, the elderly crave for traditional food. What if, whatever she cooks is equally relished by everyone! God, the Universal Mother, has once sent something of that sort from Her pantry for Her children when they were wandering in the desert of Sin. The story is described in Exodus 16. Unfortunately, the story does not reveal God’s recipe of this special food.
“What is this?” asked the Israelites when they first saw the food given by God. It was scattered on the ground all around their camp. They did not know what it exactly was, nor the believers even today! Though they called it bread, it was more like a grain which could be ground, baked or boiled. It was a mysterious food, not least because it matched well with the different tastes of so many people.
Giving of the Manna was considered by the Jews as the greatest miracle of Moses, although, it was not Moses who gave the bread, but God Himself (John 6:32). Raining of Manna from heaven was intended not only to feed the Israelites physically but also to give them some important spiritual lessons. Through this miraculous food, the Israelite were to know new lessons about God and about their own spiritual life.
God promised them bread, but not without some instructions thereon. One of the instructions was that they should personally collect it. Manna did not fly into their mouths. It was abundant and was free, but people had to collect it for themselves. Again, they had to collect it daily. It was supposed to be a daily bread to be eaten afresh. Why didn’t God allow them to collect it for a week or at least for the next day? May be God wanted them to learn trust. They were trained to sleep trusting in God for tomorrow’s bread and everyday their trust in God was validated through the gift of new bread. What a blessing it is to know that God is remembering us and taking care of us every day. Each day’s bread would be a pleasant assurance of God’s concern for us. God does not give us all the blessings we need for our entire life time as a onetime gift. Rather, he gives us whatever blessings we need at the exact time when we need it, not late not early, so that we always have the experience of the never failing presence of God with us.
Some people tried to outsmart God by collecting, against the explicit command of God, more than what was needed for a day. But, the next day it rotted and began to stink, giving trouble to its owners. Many like to amass more than what is needed and hoard them. But amassing possessions against the will of God will only annoy us. People were prohibited to collect Manna on the Sabbath day. But, they did not starve on account of this. Because God had given them a double portion of Manna on the eve of the Sabbath. Thereby God taught them that no one would lack anything when one forgo something for the sake of God. God is not a debtor to anyone.
The daily gathering of Manna has a very significant lesson to teach about our spiritual growth also. You cannot rest assured that you have already the sufficient grace for leading a solid spiritual life. Every day you have to collect the necessary grace from God for your spiritual life.
Jesus claims to be the Manna from heaven. Just as the people did not understand the stuff that lay around their tents and they asked in surprise “What is this,” so also Jesus is our mysterious bread. The divine Manna lay on the ground in simple form, so too Jesus offers Himself in the simple form of bread. The Manna was kept in a jar in the Most Holy Place. We too see the Heavenly Manna kept in our tabernacles. As Israelites had to collect Manna daily, so too we should receive God’s grace in our hearts daily through the Word and Sacrament.