Once again, let us remember that the first reading of the liturgy for the Sundays of Lent present us with a significant moment in Israel’s salvation history as a prefigurement, a presupposition of, or a preparation for the redemptive act of Jesus in our own salvation history. Today we hear of the first celebration of Passover after the Israelites had crossed over the River Jordan into the Promised Land. With this particular celebration, God brought to a conclusion the saving act that had been initiated with the call of Moses in the burning bush on Mt. Horeb. The entire act of releasing the children of Israel from bondage had taken a little in excess of forty years.
This event prefigures the conclusion of the saving or redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus by which we were released from bondage to sin. Obviously, that saving act will be completed for each of us as individuals when we cross or pass over into eternal life. In baptism we were saved by entering into the mystery of Christ’s death. While we live our mortal lives, we are in a “now” but “not yet” condition. We look forward to the day when we will experience the resurrection personally, the day when we die and are gathered up into our eternal life with God, the day when we will be united with God in heaven.
When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and led them into the desert and eventually let them cross over the River Jordan into the Promised Land, the manna with which they had been fed during their sojourn in the desert ceased to appear with each dawning day. Now that the Israelites were living in the land of milk and honey, they no longer needed the desert food which had sustained them. This prefigures the day when we will no longer need the Eucharist, our own desert food. Through the Eucharist we get a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Once we are seated at the table of that banquet, we will no longer need that foretaste. We will no longer need the food that sustains us through our mortal lives because we will have been united with Christ.
Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, each time we receive Holy Communion, we are reminded of what Christ has done for us. We remember that he died for us and gave us his flesh as food for our journey. When we enter heaven, our union with God will be complete. Just as the Israelites no longer needed the manna of the desert sojourn, we will no longer need the Eucharist. So this reading prefigures our own crossing over into eternal life.
Today is called “Laetare” Sunday. We “rejoice” as we contemplate the day when our union with God will be complete.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator