He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).
It was never easy to be God's chosen people. As some have noted, God singled out Israel from among the nations to beat into their heads certain truths about himself so these truths would not be lost to the world; for this the world is immeasurably in debt. One specific lesson God relayed through his people to the world is recounted in the passage above.
As Moses led his people through the desert, God allowed them hunger to teach a lesson: You are more than your stomach. For a group of people lost in the desert, hungry and grumpy at the very least, this may have seemed like sadistic timing for such a lesson.
But it was perfect timing. In the form of manna, God provided – but just enough, just enough to force the Jews daily to turn to God for sustenance. And in their daily act of supplication, the Jews were to learn that physical sustenance is but one form of sustenance for the human person – a very important truth.
It is not uncommon to speak of “spiritual nourishment,” but how often do we unpack this metaphor and find its true significance? Nourishment, in the physical sense, is not simply something that fuels us; it is something absolutely necessary for our survival. How many of us view our spiritual nourishment in the same way? Don't we tend to think of “being fed spiritually” merely in terms of “satisfaction” instead of as an absolute necessity for survival?
This idea has great consequence in our own lives, but the idea has implications for our acts of charity, as well. Those whose bellies we feed are more than their stomachs; they have souls that need to be fed as well, and not just with chicken soup. In addition to needing actual bread, the needy need the Bread of Life, Christ, the Incarnation of Love. In fact, not only do they need it – they crave it.
And so we are called to move alongside his apostles among the hungry crowds with baskets of this bread, with hearts overflowing with the love of the Father. Yes, we are called to be prudent and responsible in our charity – Christ did, after all, make sure the apostles gathered up all the extra bread afterward – but we are called to deliver in abundance the love for which the world is so malnourished.
The Bread of Life. God Incarnate (literally, “made meat”). The Wedding Feast of the Lamb. These and the many other images in Scripture continually remind us that physical food is necessary, but not sufficient. Man does not live on bread alone.