On the day following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Our Lord had an unusually eager audience. The people, obviously impressed with what had happened the previous day, flock back in droves to see him. No doubt they think he will perform another miracle and supply them with more food and fulfil their material hopes and ambitions, at least for another day. The deeper meaning of the event, its spiritual meaning, escapes them completely. They don’t understand what Our Lord is talking about and they fail to realise that Our Lord himself is a sign of God’s presence among them. And so Our Lord reprimands them saying: “You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs, but because you have had all the bread you wanted to eat.” This hunger for food was the starting point for Our Lord to begin his teaching about the deep hunger we all have for something more than physical sustenance.
We live in a world desperately wondering what has gone wrong with its dreams. Even during the credit crunch the media more than ever before tried to convince us that the longings of the human heart can be satisfied by the artificial securities and delights of the consumer society. Along with glossy and glamorous advertising on television, radio, newspapers and magazines – and now on the internet – there is not only the invitation to apply for credit in order to pay for all these things, but also help in consolidating bills when our spending gets out of control, when we discover we cannot afford to pay for what we have bought.
Satisfaction for the latest car or home improvement or exotic holiday is short lived. New needs are created as soon as old ones are realised, emptiness sets in and the search for happiness begins all over again in an ever repeating cycle.
As we listen to the life giving words of Our Lord in the gospel today we come to realise that food, even Tesco’s Finest, is but basic fodder and that if we are to really live, something more is required. There is another kind of nourishment needed by the human heart, because there are other hungers that we need to satisfy. Deep down within each of us there is a hunger to love and to be loved; there is a hunger to be listened to and to be appreciated, and above all there is a hunger to know that there is a meaning and an eternal value to our lives. These are the hungers of the heart and the yearnings of the spirit of which Our Lord wants us to be conscious and which he alone can satisfy.
You and I are part of this story inasmuch as it touches our personal lives. Swayed as we are by material needs, we are in constant danger of losing our taste for the food that will strengthen our souls. You can see the result of this in the empty pews in many of our parish churches where Our Lord’s presence on the altar and in the tabernacle is regarded with indifference. And yet it is here that Our Lord speaks to us and touches our hearts. Do we truly hunger and thirst for what he has to offer? Where do our interests and our true desires really lie?
Our Lord calls us to work just as hard to receive the Bread which he gives, as we do for the bread which doesn’t last. Otherwise, we will never know what we are striving for, and we will die without realising our spiritual greatness.
Saint Augustine said: ‘Our hearts are made for you, O God, and they cannot rest until they rest in you.’ The world is full of people who spend their lives aimlessly seeking joy and happiness in the wrong ways. May we, by our faith and by the simplicity of our lives, be a guide and a beacon for those caught up in the ways of the world. After all, we can’t take our wealth with us when we die.