XXXI. “Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is most practical, a realistic awareness of our basic human needs. It also makes our prayer fresh, contemporary, for “today” and its needs. Simple as it is, this prayer also implies our right relationship with God and the things of this world: we are dependent on God’s care, we receive even our daily bread from God’s loving goodness.
Just as we call God “our” Father, so here we pray for “our” daily bread. It is a subtle reminder that our lives are called to communion and charity. I do not simply pray for my needs; I pray on behalf of all in need. If I receive God’s gifts, I am also responsible to share God’s gifts. They are given by the Lord, not just so I can benefit individually, but so that I can use them for the Lord’s purposes. As Jesus told the Apostles who saw the hunger of the crowds listening to Him: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Mark 6:37).
The “daily” bread is also an echo of Israel’s desert wandering, fed by God with manna. They were to gather enough only for each day, except for Friday when they would gather enough for the Sabbath rest as well. If they took more and tried to store it up, it would get moldy and inedible. God was teaching them to rely, day by day, on His care, and not on their own reserves.
Finally, Pope Benedict examines the Greek word used for daily, epiousios. The Greek term is extremely rare, perhaps unprecedented in other literature, and scholars argue if it is refers to “bread for this day to keep us alive” or “bread for the future” in a mystical sense. Following St. Cyprian, he concludes that it included both meanings, united in the mystery of the Eucharist, “our” bread as members of the Body of Christ. It is food for our journey of faith here and now, but also already makes us sharers in the life to come with the risen Jesus.