At the Mass, in the Prayer of Consecration, the priest prays,
“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your spirit upon them like the dewfall.”
“… Send down your spirit … like the dewfall.”
In today’s first reading from the Old Testament book of Exodus, we find the source of the reference to the “dewfall” in the Mass.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
This was “Bread from Heaven” or “Manna from Heaven” that came down like the “dewfall”.
We refer to the Eucharist as “Bread from Heaven”, and we pray for the bread on the altar to become “Holy”, the Body of Christ, like Manna from Heaven. Our Eucharist recalls this moment in the desert when God fed His people bread from heaven. Throughout scriptures we hear about “Bread from Heaven.”
In the Psalm we heard,
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
He commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.
This moment in the desert was also a moment of intense emotions and grumbling against God and Moses. The people were unhappy and complaining.
The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”
Of course, God did not lead them into the desert to die. God wanted to save his people. The desert was a place of purification.
There is something illogical about this moment. I’m reminded about my own experiences raising children. Children don’t always want to do what the parents want. Children grumble. Parents generally know what is best for their children. Children don’t always want to cooperate, and accept parental logic and wisdom.
I’m reminded of our own experiences with our Catholic school program for our parish children. How often have we said the parish will assist families who want to send their children to Catholic schools. We have all seen that the public schools are not always safe places for our children, with drugs, gangs, and false teachings, like regarding gender, sexuality, human life and family and morals. These errors are intensifying, as we have seen just during the pandemic. Nationwide our children’s academic and moral formation has suffered. Test scores are plummeting. We all know that from the news reports. We have observed that the Catholic schools never wavered during the pandemic and kept forming the children we sent to them. Our kids are performing very well.
Nevertheless, how often have I observed parents turn to the children in the pews and ask, “Do you want to go to Catholic school?” I watch this happen during our announcements at Mass. Then I see the children shake their heads indicating, “NO!” And, that conversation is over.
I want to scream! “It’s not a child’s decision!” Parents are parents to seek the best for their children and to protect them from harm. Parenting is not easy, and the children often don’t want what is best for them.
God was parenting His children in the Sinai desert. God formed the Israelites into a nation of his chosen people. He was purifying them from their idolatry. They found themselves later as slaves of the Egyptians. God sent Moses to save them and liberate them. But, they were often ungrateful. They grumbled like illogical teenagers.
I can’t imagine that they really wanted to return to slavery in Egypt. It was brutal. There is a saying that, “You can take the Jew out of Egypt, but it’s hard to take Egypt out of the Jew.” What were they thinking when they grumbled that they would have been better off back in Egypt?
One of the things we learn about our Christian faith, is that our faith expects effort, and growth in discipline. It’s not always easy. God chose us. God forms us. God leads us to Him. We have to change! We are expected to become “disciples” of God, students of Jesus and his Church. But we often balk, grumble and rebel.
In the case of the Israelites following Moses, they even wanted a god they could control and while they did what they wanted. So, they made a “Golden Calf”. They made a pagan god that would not place demands upon them.
Again we see our Bible as presenting echoes of God’s lessons throughout the scriptures, over and over. In the Gospel, we recall that just prior to today’s reading, Jesus had just miraculously fed these same people, some 5,000 of them, until they were satisfied. And now, here they are again chasing after him.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
Despite Jesus’ miracle, they just wanted to fill their bellies. They did not want to learn his lessons and become his disciples. We must become Disciples of Jesus if we hope to share eternal life with him.