My Homily from this weekend!
Because my extended family lives out of state, every year when I was a Child we would make a triangle trip. First, we would go to Ohio where my mom’s family lives 15 hours by car; then we would go to North Carolina where my Dad’s family lives, another 10 hours, and then back home another 12 hours. These were not easy drives, and at times the unexpected made the trip more difficult than usual. One year we tried to drive all 15 hours in one day so that we could be at the Christmas party. When we got to Cincinnati, there was a snowstorm, and the main interstate was shut down. We found a place to stay and a bite to eat, but we were disappointed we didn’t make it. However, for me the most challenging trip we made up there wasn’t because of the amount we traveled in one day but because we decided to leave on December 25th. We went to Christmas eve mass, got up the next morning and started. We would go about half way maybe 6 to 8 hours and stop and finish the rest the next day. What we came to discover is NOTHING is open on Christmas day. Fast food restaurants closed, convenience stores at the gas station closed, sit down restaurants closed. As we traveled those hundreds of miles to Ohio, we had little to eat on Christmas day. We did eventually find an open Gas station, bought some crackers, some of those canned Vienna sausages, and got through the day. However, the whole time I was hungry and ready to get to the hotel to rest. What we had was not very filling, and our fear was we weren’t going to get enough to eat.
In today’s readings, we hear about the same situation. They are looking for something to eat something to fill their bellies. In the Gospel, the people were just fed by Jesus, and they are looking for him again for free food. The Israelites are starving in the desert and want to return to slavery so they can have their fill of food.
The Israelites were starting to lose their trust in God, they were hungry and sought after food. Their hunger was leading them back into slavery. They feared that they would never find food again and die in the desert, so they wanted to go back to slavery. They were following Moses to a land of milk honey and plenty, but when things began to become difficult, they wanted to go back to their old ways of life. God in response provides them with a miracle, and it is very similar to when Jesus fed 5000 people. He gave them fish and bread and gave the Israelites quail and mana from heaven.
As we have all experienced a meal only satisfies our hunger for a short time eventually, our body will hunger again for food. When we receive food in abundance, we naturally look in the same place again. Food is a magnet for gathering people. In college, the Catholic Student Center would give free food every Thursday, and hundreds of students would show up, they would have their fill and not pay a penny for it.
We can say that the people in today’s Gospel following their stomachs, not following Jesus and what he calls them to do. Jesus challenges them to not only follow after him because he is an easy solution to their hunger. Jesus wants to invite them to something more fulfilling. Jesus wants to give them bread that will feed them spiritually, at the deepest level of their hearts. He too for us wants to feed us in the same way.
In our own lives, we are hungry for many things, not just good food, or a meal at a nice restaurant but we also have deeper needs in our lives. All of us have a hunger to be loved, a desire to be accepted, to be successful and feel good about what we have done with our lives.
There are many things that we seek to fill these needs. They can be useful for us, help us in our lives and help us to grow closer to Jesus, or they can be bad for us and lead us into sin. All of those things good or bad will fill us in some way and fill our hunger. However, there is a longing in all of us that can never be filled by any material thing or person here on earth. Only God can fill that deepest desire in our hearts, our deepest needs. Jesus is calling us to receive his own body and blood to feed us. The Eucharist won’t do much to fill our physical hunger, but it will fill our deepest desires that only God can fill.
The Challenge for all of us is to make the Eucharist the center of our own lives. We are blessed here at Ascension that we have an adoration chapel here at Church if we can find even a small amount of time to pray for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist good things can happen. We can seek to go to mass more often, or come to Mass a few minutes earlier and sit in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
My family learned a lesson after traveling on Christmas Day. Either we never start our trip on Christmas or we pack enough food in the car to not have to stop for food. Jesus too is teaching that we need to seek after something more than food that fills our stomachs; we need to seek after God who can fill our hunger and thirst. God fills our deepest desires, and he satisfies those through his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.