CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: The Great Hunger
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
- John 6:51-58
To be human is to live with hunger. While it may not be gnawing at you right now, give it a little time. Miss a few meals. Soon it will become the focus of every thought and action. Miss a few more meals and it will be easy to forget that appetites are a gift from God. They enable our survival as individuals and as a species. They are reflections of “the great hunger”– our fear of mortality, our yearning for life’s meaning, our longing to fill the vast hole in our souls. Our great hunger in this time of pandemic.
More persistent than every other appetite, the great hunger cries out for nourishment. But like bingeing on junk food, too many otherwise intelligent people jam all sorts of junk into their souls trying to fill the hungry hole. From materialism to mysticism, from ambition to astrology, they are all on the menu every day, looking tasty but ultimately delivering no nourishment. Feeding the great hunger takes more than a diet of pleasure, an accumulation of stuff or a collection of well-meaning maxims.
The great good news is that Jesus invites us to come to him – offering “our selves, our souls, our bodies.” God’s bounty is laid out for us 24/7. He wants us to feast on faith: to find meaning in life, to transcend mortality and to find eternal happiness with him. You and I are invited to do much more than encounter Christ. We are called to complete communion with the living God. We are called to: Eat my flesh and drink my blood. This side of heaven, you can’t get closer than that.
But, what to do now?
In faith, if we truly share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, how could we possibly ever go away hungry? We are literally one with Christ and one with millions of Christians who come to the altar week by week. There is one Bread and we are all one body. There is one Cup. We are Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ - nourished by him, living in him and God in us. We have purpose and direction: God’s purpose, God’s direction.
Physical health is largely a function of genetics, nourishment, exercise and avoiding pathologies. Spiritual health is similar. In Baptism, Christ changed our spiritual genetics entirely. We are Christians to the core. But what kind of Christians are we? That depends on the healthy habits we practice. And good habits start with good nourishment. Without good nourishment, we lack the energy to exercise. Without good nourishment, we lack the judgement and the will to make healthy choices.
Scripture is our first spiritual nourishment, the mother’s milk of our faith. We first ingest it at home as children, in Sunday School and in Bible Study Camp. As adults, before our morning bacon and eggs or our Honey Nut Cheerios, there are daily devotionals that power us into our day. From Genesis to Revelations, the word of God is fat-free and loaded with nutrients. There are no secret ingredients, only grace, God’s family recipe for goodness. As Psalm 34:8 invites us:
Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who trusts in him. Our taste for grace is an acquired taste. God does not force-feed us his grace. It is always a gift. He gives. We receive. We are aware and open to God’s grace.
In Corpus Christi - this celebration of the Body of Christ - Our Lord and Savior gives himself to us entirely. We are invited to give ourselves entirely to him. Without that commitment there is no communion. There are words. There is liturgy. But there is no Corpus Christi. The great hunger goes on.
And what a waste that would be: a waste of life, a waste of joy, a waste of grace. Don’t waste this opportunity. This week, Christ offers to fill the hole in your soul with the same nourishment that inspired the apostles and fortified the martyrs. Embrace God’s grace. Lay yourself open to Corpus Christi. Bring your hunger to God. Name your fears and your failings. Come as a child to a loving parent. You won’t go away hungry. Not even in this pandemic when we may be physically prevented from receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
Let us pray:
In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there), I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.
And particularly for the blessings given me. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus