Friday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Ex 20:1-17; Mt 13:18-23
“You need to know which side your bread is buttered on.” That, together with “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” were common folk-sayings we all heard as we were growing up. It is a folksy, street-wise way of saying the preamble to the 10 commandments that we heard today: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery…” and don’t forget it! If we’re not mindful of that, then there is no point in reading on in the commandments; they won’t make sense. The bible is telling us we need to remember this.
The truth of our having been saved is the upside of our bread ‘n butter. If we turn it upside down and put self-reliance on top, our lives will get messy. We need our nurturance; we need to live in the truth.
This need to remember the God Who saves is what is at stake in the gospel about our reception of the word of God. The seed that fell on the path was not understood; the person did not know which side was buttered. The one receiving like rocky ground didn’t know who buttered it! That’s a lack of roots! The one receiving like a patch of thorns is easily discouraged by adversity because he has forgotten who brought him and generations before him out of adversity. He discounts the benefit of butter.
So why does the bible say we need to remember this and how do we experience that need? We need to remember the God who saves because it is the truth that situates us rightfully before this God. We each seek happiness and apart from a conscious relationship with God we are left to trying to chain together as many pleasure experiences as we can. Then we try to convince ourselves that that is happiness. And the resulting emptiness, hopelessness, and futility are how we experience that need. That is how our hearts become rich soil where the word can bear fruit. We feel hunger, become receptive to something different, and when the word of God meets that need, it really makes an impression on us. Then we know which side our bread is buttered on.
When we talk about “earning our bread ‘n butter” we talk about the end we live for. We are to be ever mindful of that end. Only then will the 10 commandments and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ make sense. When we remember who does the buttering we also remember that He did it gratuitously. When we remember the God who brought us “out of Egypt that place of slavery” we remember a God who is forever giving Himself away.