Putting food on the table is one of the most basic concerns of all families. For millions in our world this can be the most intense and painful of struggles because, despite their best efforts, they are unable to do so or to do so adequately. Food is not just a commodity like any other, because it is essential to wellbeing and life itself it is a human right.
“Blessed are you Lord God of all creation. It is through your goodness that we have this bread to offer, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”
For me this is one of the most beautiful prayers in the whole of the Eucharist liturgy. It is beautiful because of its form – a prayer of blessing. It is a prayer most of us make in one form or another when we have an encounter with mystery, beauty, truth or goodness or receive good news. It is a heartfelt “thanks be to God,” a spontaneous response to graciousness and gift.
I also love it because the sense that comes through this prayer is that can life flourish only when God, human beings and the earth work together in harmony. Life becomes more of a struggle when we leave one or other of these partners in the covenant God made with Noah out of the picture.
- When we forget God we can fail to see food as a gift and see it only as a commodity to be used for profit or even as a weapon. We create conditions where it is virtually impossible for millions to grow or buy the food they need.
- When we forget the creative role of the earth we treat it as something to be used for our ends only and ignore its integrity. When we do this we risk destroying the very conditions that make it fruitful.
- When we forget the needs of the many and focus on our own we can put the peace and security we desire at risk because when people are deprived of the conditions needed for life (their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink) they can be driven to desperate measures.
This prayer is a gentle reminder that if we want peace we need to share the gifts God provides, work for justice and protect the habitat that sustains us.
Fr Patrick O’Shea resides at St Columban’s Lower Hutt, New Zealand.