Both the first reading and today’s Gospel talk about the necessity of true nourishment, the food and drink that sustains our human bodies, but more importantly, the spiritual nourishment that feeds our soul and brings us to everlasting life. Further, both readings remind us that such plentiful spiritual nourishment does not depend on our ability to buy it with our human riches. Spiritual abundance comes to us from God and is available to all who seek God’s word and live by it. "Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare." And when we do so, we are blessed with a true abundance that we can then share with others in need.
Many of us live in a world that tempts us with the idea that real satisfaction comes through the acquisition of goods, or that feeling full is the result of feeding our human appetites richly. When sorrow strikes, so we are often told, dull it with drink, soothe it with food, make it go away with something new and pretty.
But in the Gospel, when Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist, He does not seek out false balms or easy distractions. "He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself." Jesus went to God, to His Father. In the face of a mighty and life-changing loss, Jesus sought out the place where his soul could gain the real nourishment He needed to carry on and assume the leadership that would ultimately take him to the Cross. Jesus went to the banquet that is God’s love and strength.
When Jesus returned and saw the vast crowds who were waiting, hungry, He might have walked away in fear or abandonment. Instead, nourished and alive with the Holy Spirit, Jesus walked toward them in compassion, thereby bringing all of us to the table that will be our ultimate fulfillment. He cured the sick and fed the multitudes. Through Jesus we find the way that we, too, might be filled with the love that will truly sustain us: "They all ate and were satisfied."
Nancy Nickel is the Director of Communications for Holy Cross Province.