|Fr. W. Norris Clarke, S.J.|
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
My brother’s son is getting to the age now where he is really curious about everything going on around him and why things are the way they are, so he constantly asks questions. And, of course, every answer you provide evokes another question. What, where, when, why and how seem to be the most popular five words. And while it can be tiring to answer question after question, there is a beauty about that stage of life – it helps us to see in a very concrete way the reality that we ourselves are always seeking something.
The twentieth century Jesuit philosopher Norris Clarke often spoke of the dynamism of the human intellect – that people have an infinite capacity to learn new things (and unfortunately forget some older things). But the reality is that we can always formulate new questions and try to understand things more deeply. Our mind is perpetually seeking and he says that this is actually a sign of our thirst for God. We have an infinite longing within us and we try to fill that longing by asking questions and seeking after the things of this world, but the reality is that only something that is infinite can fill an infinite space. And that infinite thing is God. Saint Augustine summarizes this best with that familiar phrase, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
As we listened to the words from Isaiah, we hear the Lord asking the Israelites “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” And yet we realize that the question is not only for them but also for ourselves – why do we seek after that which does not satisfy? A lot of us, I’m sure, struggle with this problem of seeking after those things that don’t fulfill us rather than in the Lord who does. I know that I find it really tempting when I’m having a bad day or am upset about something to just go and plug in my headphones and listen to music to escape from things a bit. But does that ultimately satisfy me? No; that just delays the issue. What does satisfy me is going to the Lord in prayer and asking Him to be with me and help me to know His presence in that moment. There I find fulfillment.
When the disciples in the gospel ask Jesus to send the people elsewhere to find food, He takes it as an opportunity to show everyone, especially the apostles, that they need not turn to the world to be fulfilled. As the Lord cried out in Isaiah, “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life,” so Jesus tells them that they need only come to Him and listen to His words. Doing so, they find themselves in the midst of a mysterious event, where Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and distributes it and thousands are fed. And not just fed, the scriptures tell us “they were satisfied.” So great is the Lord’s love for his people that He gives more than they needed or asked for in response to them simply placing their trust in Him.
Today in this Eucharistic celebration, we find the Lord coming once again mysterious to take, bless, break, and distribute the ‘true bread from heaven’, His own flesh in the Eucharist, and we realize that the Lord is once again inviting us to come to Him and have life. He desires nothing but what is best for us - that we be fulfilled by Him.