Let God Strike Again

The Gathering of the Manna  by Tisso

The Gathering of the Manna

Colin is my 7-year-old grandson and, along with his little brother Lukas, they are among the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received. To say that they have ways of making my day and life brighter is pure understatement.

For one thing, Colin can say some truly funny stuff. He has a pretty good one involving food.

He’s an extremely picky eater. In that respect, he’s much like his dad. Donny is choosey about food that he likes, and even with many of his favorites he tries to enhance the dining experience with ketchup. Colin is so picky, he doesn’t like even ketchup – though truth be told, he probably never has tried it.

Fortunately, Colin loves most vegetables and fruits. His staple main courses include mac and cheese, spaghetti with Parmesan cheese heavily sprinkled on top, plain cheeseburgers, cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese, cheese pizza – are you sensing a theme yet? – along with hot dogs, pancakes and waffles with syrup. No cereal. No peanut butter. I know: weird kid.

He has gotten somewhat daring over the last few months, though. He has tried some foods previously foreign to his delicate palate and found he likes them. Pepperoni and sausage pizza, for instance. Barbequed pork steaks. Chicken fettuccine. He ate bologna once, too, but daughter Jessica said, “That doesn’t really count because he gagged and hasn’t eaten it since.”

When he eats something new (to him) and finds his taste buds delighted, he will end the anticipation by exclaiming: “Colin strikes again!” And, as stated in fairy tales, there is much rejoicing.

Last night, it was barbequed shredded chicken that his mom had cooked in the crock pot all day, as well as some fancy-schmancy green beans dish that Jessica loves. Not only did he ask for seconds on the beans but he ate almost all his chicken sandwich – which means, Jess pointed out, that he now likes barbeque sauce!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner: Colin strikes again!

In some ways, it simply means that Colin is growing up. He is maturing. He is putting aside the old ways and the old dinners, which had to involve cheese or whipped cream, and move into a new way of living and eating. He has tried to open his mouth and his mind to the possibility that there might be something that not only tastes better than mac and cheese but also is healthier for him.

To you and me, that might make perfect sense. But to a little boy who only sees something strange on his plate instead of delicious, that can be a little frightening. It looks different. It smells different. It feels different. So that little boy – as well as most grownups – look at the call to change and prefer to stay within the comfort zone.

That came to mind during my Lectio Divina prayer time with last Sunday’s Scripture readings.

In the reading from the Book of Exodus, we heard how the Israelites complained to Moses that they should have stayed enslaved in Egypt rather than find no food in the desert. Through Moses, God promised them that “in the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.” He sent them quail in the evening, then manna in the morning. Even then, they questioned then manna, which looked strange and unknown: “What is this?” they asked.

In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote that they couldn’t live as the Gentiles did any longer, “that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

And in Sunday’s selection from the Gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples not to work for food that will perish but instead for the food that will carry a person through to eternal life. Instead of buying completely into that, the people recalled that Moses had fed their ancestors with manna in the desert, so they wanted Jesus to give them a sign in order for them to believe in him.

Jesus replied that it was the Father, not Moses, who provided the bread from heaven. When the people asked for this life-giving bread of God, Jesus responded: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Quite an enticing promise. And yet … some of us hesitate. Most of us hesitate, not just to sample the “Bread of Life” with our tongues but to commit our hearts to believing. Why? What do we have to lose? Perhaps we’d rather stay within the confines of our comfort zones, despite any unhappiness or feeling that something is missing, because we fear we might have to give up something in the process.

From a 2005 homily by Pope Benedict XVI: “We fear change. We fear losing control of our lives if we surrender to Christ. We fear where He might take us. We are comfortable with what we know and fear what we do not know.”

Writer Mark Davis Pickup used that quote in a recent Catholic Lane column. Even though our work appears on the same website, I’ve never met him. But I’m grateful for his words. Mr. Pickup wrote: “Bishop Fulton Sheen told us that many people are afraid to make Truth personal, intimate and incarnate because they know it may involve a Golgotha. Indeed it may. The Truth will set you free but not before it breaks your heart.”

The Truth will set you free, but not before it breaks your heart.

Yes, it’s possible to never hunger or thirst spiritually. Yes, you can put away deceitful desires and have your old self renewed as a new self. Yes, you can gain release from slavery and find freedom.

Of course, you might have to wander the desert for a while first. You might have to eat some bread that appears on the surface of the desert and looks like fine flakes of hoarfrost on the ground. You might have to give up the certain tried-but-true taste of a bland cheese sandwich and opt to experience something new in a barbequed shredded chicken sandwich.

We are called out of our comfort zones. But it comes with this promise: “The glory of God will strike again!”


About Author

Mike Eisenbath has been married to Donna for 30 years; they have four adult children and two grandsons. He was an award-winning sportswriter for 23 years, including 18 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with duties that included covering the St. Louis Cardinals and Major League Baseball. Severe depression forced him out of that career. He continues to write, with a monthly column in the St. Louis Review and his www.eisenbath.com website featuring reflections on topics such as his Catholic faith and mental illness. Mike is a frequent speaker and radio guest involving those subjects. Among his three books is Hence My Eyes Are Turned Toward You: Confronting Depression With Faith and the Prayer of Jehoshaphat.