Let’s begin by asking a question: were you ever hungry for something but you didn’t know what? You know, you see the ads on TV and you go to the refrigerator, and open the door, and look at everything on the shelves, and say, I’m hungry for something, but not that melon, or that chicken. Or were you ever thirsty for something and did not know what for?
Or put it another way: do you have everything in life that is important, a family, a job, an income, but still feel that something is missing? If your answer to that question is yes, then today’s scripture readings could hold an important message for you for they remind us of something that we often forget.
There are two kinds of hunger in the world: physical, and spiritual. We read about the first last week when Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people. Now this same group of people seek him out again, again they seek a sign, again they want to be fed, again they want to see five loaves feed 5,000.
Can you imagine how disappointed Jesus must have been? He had come into this world to give humanity the truth, an eternal relationship with the Father. He wanted to give them a life with meaning and purpose, and all they wanted were a few crumbs of bread. Perishable food that would leave them hungry in just a few hours.
Over and over again in the Gospel, we see the very same thing: people come to Jesus to be healed, they leave physically healed, but all too often spiritually bankrupt. Were not ten lepers healed, and yet only one came back to give thanks? Ten said please, only one said thank you.
We still do this today. We ignore the living presence of God for unimportant things that will not last. Such as, a couple comes to their priest to make arrangements for a wedding. He wants to speak to them about the sacrament of marriage, to tell them how important communication is, how important prayer and sacraments are, and how Christ has to be a part of their marriage. More often than I care to admit all they want to talk about is how many bridesmaids they can have, and the length of the service as we can’t upset the caterer or wedding planner.
A child is being baptized. Important decisions must be reached. Who will be the Godparents? Should the boss be asked? How about rich Uncle Harry? Many times the point is often overlooked. Is the Godparent able to be an example of Christian life to the child?
Sometimes we are no different from the people during the ministry of Jesus. Then, as now, people concerned themselves more with creature comforts and physical needs than with spiritual needs. Who can blame us? When daily TV tells us that in order to be happy we have to look a certain way, be a certain weight, and drive the right kind of car, we can easily get swamped. To reverse directions means one must make decisions based on a new set of priorities.
There has always been a strong tendency to seek God for what He will give us. On any Sunday morning you can watch the TV preachers who will usually tell you that if you open your life to Jesus, and send money, $500, $1,000, you can expect to be healthy, wealthy and happy.
But what happens when it does not work? People sometimes abandon their faith. After a tragedy, illness or death of a loved one, they may never say it, but deep down inside they believe that God has failed them. They prayed to him and He did not answer their request.
None of this is to suggest that Jesus is not interested in our daily problems. One of the most important factors in believing in a God incarnate is the knowledge that He understands human needs. He met the physical and material needs of others as he walked this earth, and He still meets them. But He offers so much more! Above all He wants us to enter a relationship with Him
That is what today’s Gospel is all about. If we just see God as a sugar daddy, as a magician or a Bayer aspirin as those people in Galilee did, then we have missed the point. One can have all the material goods of this world, yes; you can have health and wealth, and still have nothing. None of these automatically brings peace or security. None of them compare with the presence of Christ, the Bread of Life, who feeds us during this mass. The One who said, no one who comes to Me shall ever be hungry. No one who believes in Me shall thirst again. For I am the way, the truth, and the life. Believe me, my friends, there is no other.