For What Are You Hungry Today?
Fr. Vince Costello
Did you ever have the experience of just having a taste for something specific? Often we don’t know why this occurs, but we just have a taste for some thing. Most of the time this desire is prompted in part by the fact that it’s almost mealtime, and our stomachs are talking to us. However, even when they’re not, every now and then we just have a taste for some thing specific. We are not just generically hungry; we desire tacos, the leftover pizza in the refrigerator, bacon and eggs, or mom’s favorite homemade dessert. You get the idea. We just have a taste for some thing.
The reason I raise this topic is because during the upcoming weekends the Gospels we hear at Mass will speak about food – both material food and spiritual food. This coming Sunday we will hear St. John’s account of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish. The evangelist tells us how Jesus takes a few loaves and a couple of dried fish and uses them to feed thousands of hungry people ( I don’t know if the crowd had a particular hankering for bread and fish that day, but I believe everything tastes good if you’re hungry enough). This action obviously has a significant impact on those who were fed that day. They are excited to be in the company of a man who can produce large amounts of free food, and free is good. In fact, there’s talk of taking Jesus and making him their king whether he likes it or not.
As the story evolves over the next few weekends, we will hear how Jesus uses his ability to satisfy physical hungers as a springboard for him to speak about himself as the one who also can take care of spiritual hungers. He goes so far as to describe himself as the “Bread of Life.” Jesus also speaks about the importance of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in order for someone to have eternal life.
As we will see over the next couple of Sundays, these statements are rather difficult for the crowds to swallow (pardon the pun). No spiritual leader in ancient Israel was so bold as to speak about himself in those terms. To the best of my knowledge no one else ever has since that day. It is little wonder that most of the members of the crowd were startled and confused by what Jesus said. Today some of us are still astounded when we consider the implications of his words.
I believe that most of us experience a variety of hungers. Some are physical, and we are aware of those hungers on a daily basis. But there are other hungers for which we have “a taste” if you will. One of the most important of these is a hunger for direction and purpose to our lives. Something deep down inside of each of us carries a desire for more than this life can offer. We hunger to be connected with something which is much bigger than we are. We also hunger to love and to be loved unconditionally. Perhaps the most significant is the hunger we harbor is the desire to believe that the grave is not our final destiny.
As we march through the sixth chapter of John over the next few weekends, perhaps we can pay attention to the hungers we have. Some of the most important ones have little to do with what we eat each day. These are hungers only Jesus can fulfill. He told us as much in these Gospel passages. I hope we believe him.
Father Vince Costello