This is the turning point in the Our Father. Where the first
three petitions were directed to the glory of God, from now on they are
concerned with our needs.
The Churchs tradition finds two levels of request for
nourishment in this petition. We ask for the food we need for our souls, and
the sustenance we need for our bodies.
When St. Pius X issued his decree on frequent Holy
Communion, he explained that frequent means daily reception of the Blessed
Sacrament. He based his teaching on the comparison with the food that we daily
need to sustain our bodies, and the all but unanimous interpretation of the
Fathers of the Church. They say that daily bread in the Lords Prayer means
daily Communion. The pope concludes that the Eucharistic Bread should be our
It is assumed that, in receiving Holy Communion, a person
has sanctifying grace. The reason is obvious. No less than food for the body
presumes that the body has its natural life, so the Eucharistic food for the
soul presumes that the soul is supernaturally alive.
There is also another spiritual food that we pray for in
this petition. That is the nourishment of truth that the human mind needs for
its daily sustenance. No less than the body needs material food to remain
healthy and stay alive, so the soul has to be fed daily on Gods revealed word
to maintain its spiritual vigor and life.
Christs long discourse on the promise of the Eucharist uses
the same word Bread to refer to both kinds of spiritual nourishment: His own
living Body in the Holy Eucharist, and His revealed word in the truths of
Daily Needs of the Body
On the material side of our bodily needs, the fourth
petition asks God to provide the hungry with food, the homeless with shelter,
the sick and the aged with adequate care, the victims of addiction to drugs and
alcohol with help to recover from indulgence and the resulting disease.
This petition applies to both impoverished and affluent
societies, which often co-exist in the same country and even the same city or
It is no exaggeration to say that in praying Give us this
day our daily bread we are literally begging the Lord to move the hearts of
men to share with one another of the resources that He makes available for
respectable human living.
It is a sad irony of the modern world in an age of
unprecedented wealth, the world is going through a period of superhuman
suffering. There are many reasons for this paradox. But one of them is the cold
indifference to the bodily sufferings of countless millions in every region of
When Pope John Paul II wrote his apostolic exhortation on The Christian Meaning of
Human Suffering, he
touched on every aspect of this petition of the Our Father.
We are to pray, he said, especially that God in His mercy,
will inspire a legion of Good
Samaritans to see the physical needs of other people and come to their selfless
Following the parable of the
Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different
forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human
person, that unselfish gift of ones I on behalf of other people, especially
those who suffer
The world of human suffering calls
for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain
sense owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in ones heart and
actions. The person who is a neighbor cannot indifferently pass by the
suffering of another
He must stop, sympathize just
like the Samaritan in the gospel parable. The parable in itself expresses a deeply Christian truth, but one that at
the same time is very universally human. It is not without reason that, also in
ordinary speech any activity on behalf of the suffering and needy is called
Good Samaritan work (Salvifici doloris,
Whatever else we pray for, when we ask for our daily
bread, we are asking the God of mercy to inspire countless Good Samaritans to
reflect this mercy in their loving concern for the suffering of others.
Copyright © 2002 Inter Mirifica
Pocket Catholic Catechism