We constantly confuse earth with heaven, even though heaven indeed comes to us through the things of the earth.
Every one of us his hungry every day and all throughout the day. We fill our lives with hunger, the hunger for bread and the hunger for water; the hunger for silence and the hunger for peace; the hunger for companionship and the hunger for love; the hunger for health and the hunger for rest.
How is it, then, that in this buffet of hunger we miss the true Bread that can fill the one hunger that is most insatiable: the hunger for God?
In John 6 the people who follow Jesus are walking pictures of this hunger and its confusion of celestial and terrestrial breads. To their seeming credit, the people chase Jesus, after He fed the 5000. They keenly recognize that Jesus is not in the boat with the disciples, and so they go to the trouble to pursue Jesus in boats of their own. Finally, they find Him on the other side of the sea.
But instead of finding a Jesus ready to feed them again, they find a Jesus ready to confront their hunger confusion. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (verses 26-27).
He reminds them as well that the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (verse 33).
Those responsible for inaugurating the era known as the “Enlightenment” would have felt right at home in first century Judea, for they took a ginormous pair of scissors and with them severed heaven from earth. “What,” we can hear them asking, “does bread have to do with God?” Dun Scotus (from whence comes the word “dunce”), Zwingli and others also killed the sacrament, neatly disconnecting the divine grace from the human elements through which, by the Spirit, it flowed. So bread is bread and God is God and never the twain shall meet.
Be honest with yourself: what is your hunger truly for? What is it that you seek to satisfy you and give you life? Each of us hungers for many things every day, and often our deepest hunger is not for God Himself but for something that only He can give us.
Some of us, even in seeking God, are not truly seeking Him but are seeking the good things He can give us, like the people in John 6 seeking the bread of earth above the bread of heaven. Some of us are not seeking the God of the Cross and the Resurrection but are seeking the therapeutic god or the self help God. What we are seeking is to have the pain go away or to feel successful or victorious. What we are really seeking may be a sense of accomplishment or self-worth.
Some of us when we worship are not seeking God Himself that He might feed us Himself
but are seeking the emotion and feeling that God gives. Joy and even happiness are good gifts from God: but they are not God.
These are all violations of the second commandment, and whenever we substitute anything in the creation, no matter how good, for the Creator, we have become idolaters.
As I proceed throughout the day, I find that the Scylla and Charybdis of idolatry and atheism present themselves to me like prostitutes every step of the way down the street of my life. In the many ways that the Bread of Heaven rains down on my life every day I seem to choose to act as if things just happen by themselves or else I get wrapped up in my devotion to the things of this life. I don’t intend to deny God, but that’s what practically happens if I don’t set out to find Him.
When I wake up in the morning, ripped unnaturally from the middle of my sleep cycle, I put my faith in myself that I will have the ability to get up and meet the rush of the day. Desiring to be made clean, I shower and shave and am a new man, as they say.
In need of a little resurrection, I fumble to prepare the daily grind that allows me to endure the daily grind. I take the morning’s snackraments of cereal and coffee, re-energized for the day.I travel safely to my work, where I proceed to execute a well-planned day. If I’m lucky, things go according to plan, and I feel good. If things don’t go according to plan, then naturally I’m upset because my will has not been done on earth again.
Somehow, I manage to make it to lunch, where I pull out the lunch my wife has made. On a good day I may remember to bless her if the snackage or dessert are particularly delightful, or I may murmur a little if I discover she’s put mayonnaise on the blah lunchmeat again instead of mustard.
Work resumes, work ends, and I return to home for a more leisurely part of the day. I nap to refresh myself and wake groggy for the second part of the day. Things seem to go according to plan during dinner, table jobs, and Evening Prayer, where maybe I can rest enough to concentrate on God for a few minutes. And then the time seems to evaporate. I have plans to read or write or play with the kids. Something happens, and sometimes it’s good.
I go to bed when I’m fully exhausted and hope I can fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time, hoping to catch a greater part of my final sleep cycle in the morning and wake a little less exhausted.
Anywhere along the day, when this daily stuff happens, I have an opportunity to find something more than bread. When I wake, I could thank God that I’m alive. When I drink my coffee I could remember that there is a greater hope for a resurrection, and one that will last past noon. When things go wrong with the day I planned, I could turn to Someone other than myself, and maybe I’d find satisfaction even in the things that go wrong.
But too much of my life is lived on the earthly plane. Too often I find that I’m no better than the people in John 6 and only want God to make my daily earth a little easier and more rewarding, when all along He has been trying to use the earth to allure me back to heaven.
Food and drink are real needs indeed. But bread should leave a trail of crumbs that leads all the way up to heaven. For this reason, it is a good and godly habit to thank God for our food every time we are fed. But we must do more than this: we should allow our joy and thankfulness in being fed to remind us of that greater hunger and that greater Bread of Life.
I want you, Lord! I love the bran flakes or other cereal you give me faithfully every morning, and the wonderful coffee. But what I really hunger for is You. What I really want to smell is the sweet aroma of Your presence. You are the One I come to revive me today, and I want to be resuscitated so that I can more properly see You and love You.
When I work, I want to remember that I am working for you and that whatever work You assign to me today is holy and just what I need. When I eat the just O.K. sandwiches, I want to give You thanks that you feed me faithfully each day, even if I might sometimes have a taste for other food.
When I rest and play, I want to rest in you, and I want my delight in You to be greater than in any book I might read, movie I might watch, or game I might play.
Today, Lord, I want to follow you more zealously than the people followed you when in search of more bread. For I want You because I want the Bread of Life.
I want You because I want You.
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What opportunities are there every day to affirm God and not just His gifts?
2. What things in life that are most desirable to you may also be a path to God?
Resolution: I resolve to turn to Jesus today every time I feel hunger, thirst, or a deep need today.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson