We take up the Gospel today from where it left off yesterday—Jesus responds to the request of the crowd to “give us this bread always” and I know my heart echoes the same request. Yet, I can still feel that I hunger and thirst, in fact I may go so far as to say rather than my thirst being slaked I often sense an increased desire for more. Karl Rahner—the Jesuit Theologian—suggests at its essence this longing for more is, “the primal cry for God.”
I wonder if this is something we all struggle to interpret? Do we misread our hunger for God with material or emotional hungers? “You will be happy when you own this product or lose weight or have important personal connections”—or whatever—fill in the rest because the list can be endless. There is always more and better. We often stop short of discovering our deepest hungers; in today’s culture it is easy to be distracted and assume a quick-fix answer. Struggling to understand the difference between what I want and need is the process of a lifetime. Once we step back to observe our patterns of behavior—or should I say—step inside of ourselves, we slowly come to awareness that our desire is deeper than surface wants and desires and we need to work to uncover them. Perhaps this is what Jesus is referring to in his comment: “I’ve told you although you have seen me, you still do not believe.” We may on one hand assume we believe while on the other hand remain blind to those habits and patterns which can actually take us away from God and mask our true thirst.
Fear not! Jesus is very clear in the text that our lack of belief will not separate us from him. How magnificently he assures us that rather than rejecting us he came for our redemption. And I believe this is where we are both challenged and consoled. Challenged in the sense that as Jesus came down from heaven to do the will of the Father so now we must do likewise, this calls for a constant dying to self; and we are consoled by Jesus’s words that God’s will is that “he not loose anyone who has been given him.” This is the Good News—the win/win compassionate mercy of God is extended to anyone desiring to come to Jesus. And so I have come to believe in the paradoxical elements of Jesus statement, when I receive the bread of life, I am both satisfied and yet have a deeper thirst for more of God.
So may we pray that nourished by the bread of life, God would give us the grace to recognize that deep longing as our authentic self, struggling to be born and not our desire for more possessions of any kind—emotional or physical. Like the first reading offers, may we listen to Christ proclaimed with one accord as we see the fruits of our labors rise up to bless our days and our world. Amen
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.