I. It’s called “Glamour Shots.” You’ve seen them in malls: portrait photography, as their website states, of, “you being the best version of yourself”—“you” with chicer clothes, bigger hair, and more makeup than you’ve ever imagined—with some digital touchups. They claim, “Our personalized consultant works with you to craft a photo session so you get exactly what you always imagined: You. Being fabulous.”
For those of you who came to this country as immigrants, you may have been given a Glamour Shot of the United States. Welcoming, warm, and providing all the opportunities and assistance for you to be the best version of yourself. Hopefully that’s what you found. But perhaps you discovered that the Glamour Shot was deceiving. Many are feeling that way in these terrifying, terrible times. We hear today the Israelites when they discovered that things weren’t what they were cracked up to be:
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!
We all of us may have been, whether in work, or relationships, with our hopes and dreams, enticed by Glamour Shots, and in the end, when we discovered the real thing, wondered “What is this?”
II. The Aramaic word, “manna,” means, literally, “What is this?” “What is it?” The Israelites didn’t have a clue what the white stuff was—very unglamourous—but they ate it, because they were hungry. And rather than complain about what it wasn’t, Moses urged them to look beyond what they were given: if they weren’t satisfied by what they were given, look beyond to the giver who, in the end, always satisfies. God asked them to trust, God promised He would be there, and He was. Jesus likewise pleads with his listeners to not think with our stomachs, but to open our hearts and minds, to look beyond the bread, to the One who gives it. Jesus turns desire for bread into an opportunity to teach about a different kind of food: faith in Jesus. It is faith in Jesus that satisfies our deepest hungers. Jesus is life. We may be otherwise disappointed—things may not be what they were cracked up to be—but Jesus will see us through. “Manna” is no longer a word of desperation, but a blessing.
III. Theologian, Robert Hovda, writes,
Good liturgical celebration…takes us by the hairs of our heads, lifts us momentarily out of the cesspool of injustice we call home, puts us in the promised and challenging reign of God, where we are treated like we have never been treated anywhere else.
This accounts for our appetite for this Eucharistic bread, our passion for this sacrament. So much more than a sign is revealed and received here. Here we taste, we feed on, the promised reign of God. Here we meet Jesus Christ, who treats us like we’ve never been treated anywhere else—by anyone else.
h/t: Mary McGlone