19 June 2013
This is one of a series of weekly Christian reflections and prayers for the IF campaign that focuses on the theme of 'Our Daily Bread', with contributors from CAFOD, Tearfund and Christian Aid.
This week's reflection is a contribution from CAFOD.
The Scripture scholar Fr Thomas Worden, who wrote 'The Psalms are Christian Prayer', gave a series of Lenten reflections on the 'Our Father', spending four of the sessions on the first two words.
He stressed the nature of our 'common parent' in the original word 'Abba', a personally caring figure rather than an indifferent judge, who calls us to become brothers and sisters sharing a common parent. Pope Benedict reminded us that 'globalisation makes us neighbours, but not brothers and sisters.'
‘The challenge to become brothers and sisters is a deep personal and structural challenge to our social, economic and political relationships.'
In the Catholic liturgy we are 'dared' by Jesus to pray 'Our Father'. And it is much more of a real challenge than a comfortable request.
Notably we ask 'give us this day our daily bread', not 'my' or even 'my share of'. It is a collective, not an individual request.
In other words, we are being challenged to share but, as Professor AL Halsey put it, 'how can we call ourselves brothers and sisters if some are poor while others are rich?'
The theologian Enrique Dusserl spells out that the rich in reality consume the lives of the poor; they are rich because of the death of the poor. There is a detrimental causal connection.
The challenge to become brothers and sisters, therefore, is a deep personal and structural challenge to our social, economic and political relationships, both locally and globally in a world in which millions are born and live and die poor.
Nor should we be under any illusions that sharing will be easy. Bread is shared by being broken.
In the Catholic faith, the breaking of bread is at the heart of the Eucharist, transformed into the body of Jesus Christ broken on a Cross.
Perhaps we should be more hesitant and wary in praying the 'Our Father' and asking 'give us this day our daily bread'. We could be inviting personal trouble, if not sacrifice.
We should be aware that the price of having our sins forgiven is actually to ask to be broken in sharing. St Thomas Aquinas prayed, 'May I receive the sacrament of the Lord's body and blood in its reality and power.' The Eucharist is never to be underestimated.
Asking Our Father to give us our daily bread means much more than ensuring we personally reach lunchtime or get a decent meal each day, important to everyday living though that is.
It is about tackling and changing our relationship to others, and it implies making a personal daily commitment to work for peace and justice to ensure there is bread shared among all humanity, and a 'bread of life' in a death-dealing world.
That involves some complex analysis and actions as well as personal contact and support. Perhaps by helping at food banks, but also for example demanding publicly to know why they are necessary or by lobbying politicians to back aid budgets. Pressing for daily bread for all cannot be a general, soft request.
Daring to ask Our Father for our daily bread is to ask for trouble in a world failing to share, but that is what the 'followers of the way', as the earliest Christians were known, are called to do.
John Battle, former MP for Leeds West, now working on community organising and anti-poverty strategies in Leeds
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