The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
What do, the hungry of our country and area (recalling that our food pantry fed 3,000 children in 2014), our personal attitude toward food, the amount we each take from the limited resources of our world, and the political activism of writing letters to our congressional representatives in regard to the continued funding of feeding programs in our country, have to do with the Eucharist Meal of Jesus’ Body and Blood?
The reflection began three weeks ago when Jesus asked, “Where can we buy enough food for [the crowd] to eat?” [John 6: 5] Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus always begins his most important teachings with present realities.
- The Pharisee, Nicodemus, filled with questions has a conversation during the night with Jesus. The darkness is not due to the loss of sun and moonlight; the darkness is within the soul of Nicodemus. And from that darkness Jesus leads Nicodemus into the light of new understandings of spirit and truth as to who Jesus is and God’s love for Nicodemus and the world. [See John 3:1-21]
Do you remember the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well? The conversation begins with Jesus asking for a drink of water which resulted in a teaching about life-giving waters of truth. And a woman who is on the fringe of her village having experienced the person of Jesus as life-giving water introduces her neighbors to the Messiah. [See John4:4-41]
So too with the sixth chapter of John. It begins with people who are tired and hungry. Who after they were fed seek Jesus out who challenges them in their understanding: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Jesus calls them on the carpet to reflect deeper on their experience of hunger and being satisfied. He challenged Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in the same manner. Jesus now redirects to us. We have reflected in the past three weeks on hunger and being satisfied.
So what is that insatiable hunger, the parched thirst, the deep yearning within you that will not be satisfied?
What is the desire that no amount of food, no amount of possessions, no authority you possess, no prestige or power you hold, no amount of friends, no sense of security, no amount of money, no well-being and health can satisfy? …that gnawing that we all (if we are brutally honest with ourselves) have deep within us?
It is even possible to name?
It is something that I have struggled with most of my life. That longing for something…MORE. And my music and art, my academic grounding and education, the privilege of being able to travel the world, my office in the church, the ability to preside over liturgy and preach, security, having been given a life free from want and yet wonder if I have ever truly been grateful; all this still leaves a deep hole within me for more. The obvious answer of course is union with God. But that answer for me falls flat, a truism at best.
Might it be that God purposefully leaves us hungry for divinity lest we seek out something far less then union with the God revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth; a God that loved us into existence, daily sustains us and will birth us into eternity?
So what do the hungry, our attitudes toward food and advocacy for people who are experiencing hunger have to do with the Eucharist Meal of Jesus’ Body and Blood?
- Might the hungry of our world be a reminder to us of our deep longing for God?
- Is our attitude toward food and the amount we eat an opportunity to stimulate reflection on what we may be prizing over our relationship with God?
- Is taking a stand and advocating for other people who are hungry or in any need an opening to take attention off ourselves leaving a sacred space for God to fill?
It is in the Eucharist, Sunday after Sunday, sacred meal after sacred meal, whether we are attentive or not, whether we are in the mood or not, that in the eating and drinking of flesh and blood we encounter not just Jesus but are reminded of that deep hunger within us each time we approach for communion, for a holy union, an insatiable union. It is the same union that Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the crowds, the thirsty and the hungry sought out and still seek out. The Eucharist is not an end in itself but an opportunity for both personal and communal transformation and conversion where we acknowledge our insatiable hunger and join ourselves to the great hunger of the world.