He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them grain from heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels; he provided for them food enough. Psalm 78:24-25
The Old Testament lessons for today are tough lessons, for the psalm and the reading from Jeremiah speak mainly about the wrath of God. The people whom God led from Egypt, after God provided a path through the sea, and a cloud to guide, and water, and even manna to feed them, “in spite of all this, they went on sinning, and had no faith in his wonderful works,” says the psalm. In his exhortation, Jeremiah also reminds the people of the unfaithfulness of their ancestors, how they “looked backward, rather than forward,” and how they did not listen, or pay attention, but “stiffened their necks.” This is a theme that runs through both these lessons: the people forgot. They did not remember the deeds and power of God. In today’s parlance, they said, fine, but what have you done for me lately?
Especially in Lent, we are reminded that we are also a rebellious generation, that we turn away from God again and again, that we keep on sinning. But we need to remember that, even at the end of the psalm, the people are reminded that God provided a leader, David, to shepherd them “with a faithful and true heart.” And, just as God chose David to lead the people, Jesus was born to be our leader and our example. Just as God provided manna to the people in the wilderness, God has provided to us in the Eucharist the “bread of angels.” As the beloved hymn Panis Angelicus from Thomas Aquinas tells us, the bread of angels has become food for us; all of us, made in God’s image, receive the body of our Lord. That’s one of the things God has done for us lately, and that God continues to do.
Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of bread. Book of Common Prayer, page 834