This hymn, also known as “Gift of Finest Wheat”, was composed by Omar Westendorf (1916-1997) who received a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and spent most of his professional musical career as the organist and choirmaster at S. Bonaventure Church in Cincinnati. Mr. Westendorf was a considered a leading post-Vatican II composer, and this hymn is one of the best-known Communion hymns to come from the years immediately following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. This hymn is one of my personal favorites. It is enjoyable to sing and the message is meaningful.
You satisfy the hungry heart, With gift of finest wheat.
Come, give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.
A person once said to me “It feels good to be hungry!” Well, that may be true for some people, but not for me. In fact, being obsessed with food, I spend a great deal of time making sure that I don’t get hungry. The imagery of the “finest wheat” and “bread of life” used in the refrain of the hymn refer to spiritual hunger, not physical hunger, but it is easy to relate to.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
The imagery in the hymn helps us to physically feel the message. It acknowledges God’s role in caring for us and providing us all that we need… and also our role in believing in and following him. The first verse describes this well:
As when the shepherd calls his sheep
They know and heed his voice;
So when You call Your family, Lord,
We follow and rejoice.
The second verse praises and thanks God for caring for and feeding us. The third verse (in my opinion) acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts. The fourth verse describes Jesus’s sacrifice for us and our obligation to do God’s work here on earth:
You give yourself to us, O Lord,
Then selfless let us be,
To serve each other in Your name,
In truth and charity.
The story does not end with just believing in God and that Jesus Christ died for our sins. God is our role model and heavenly Father. Here on earth, we are called upon to love and care for our brothers and sisters… just as God loves and cares for us. Amen!