Satisfying our spiritual hunger

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Peter was a grateful man. Happily married, with two wonderful kids, he was the principal of a high school and had won many accolades for his innovative ideas. Yet, he was unhappy and restless. He felt something was missing in his life.

He decided to talk to a counselor, an acquaintance from his teaching world. He wanted someone he felt he could trust, but still he wanted some “objectivity.”

The counselor listened attentively, making few comments, asking few questions. When Peter had finished, the counselor said, “I think you are a lucky man and I think you are hungry!”

“Hungry! But I have a freezer full of food and a thriving garden!”

“Ah, but you are in a rut….the rut of contentment. You have satisfied many of your goals. You are successful and now you are being called to something deeper. You are hungry for more….but not in the material sense.”

Isn’t that what Jesus is offering his followers in today’s gospel? He has started at the Kindergarten level. They followed him– they were hungry—he fed them. They had been wide eyed at his miracles and now he had taken five measly loaves and two pitiful fish and fed thousands. They followed him to the other side of the sea, hoping to see more. Could he feed them again?

But now Jesus confronts them. They are looking at him more as a magician that can satisfy all their material needs than anything else. So he moves them up a few grade levels. He challenges them to look for more than earthly food…to work for the heavenly food that endures eternal life. He begins to tell them about the Bread of Life…that the Father, not Moses, fed them in the desert and that now with the Bread of Life they will never be hungry or thirsty again. Of course they are ecstatic to hear this! Tell us more! (This reading is the beginning of St. John’s “Bread of Life Discourse.” In the next three weeks, Jesus will continue to challenge his listeners to prepare them/us for total belief in the Eucharist.)

Now back to Peter. While most of us, like Peter, have never experienced any real physical hunger — at least for any length of time, we do hunger. As in our gospel reading, we need to be lifted from our material hungers into the realm of recognizing our spiritual hungers–and to seek to satisfy that hunger. Of course that hunger can only be satisfied by Christ. Sometimes I think it’s easy to ignore this. We are way too busy chasing our material hungers to even realize that we are spiritually hungry. We know that we must work for our material success. Quite often we “start at the bottom” but with work and perseverance we gradually reach our goals, sighting successes along the way.

Satisfying our spiritual hunger is different; in that we must put aside our material hungers to make time to recognize and satisfy those spiritual hungers: A needed increase of faith, trust, love of our God. Quite often this will lead to increased faith, trust, and love of those around us. We begin to see our neighbors with a new perspective. But like our material hungers, spiritual hungers aren’t satisfied overnight. We begin in “Kindergarten” and grow over time in wisdom, grace, faith, trust, and love. It takes time and  perseverance just like any of our goals. We must never give up and we must look for those “successes” along the way to keep us focused and give us the fortitude to persevere. Christ does draw us closer little by little, and sometime with a great leap! We’ve only to recognize it. And then as we reach what we see as our spiritual goal, we have the opportunity to go even deeper and to grow more.

There is no graduation in our journey to know our Lord better. There is only constant growth and fulfillment of those hungers that fill our soul. No matter what our worldly success, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” (I will leave the source and center of this growth to our writers over the next few weeks!)

Linda Caminiti