The spiritual hunger  

Jn 6:30-35

 At that time the people said to Jesus, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”  They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

It is not easy for people to understand that it is not earthly goods but spiritual goods that are most important, especially God Himself. Earthly goods are so immediate and delight our senses; spiritual goods, on the other hand, appeal to the deeper dimensions of our human existence and are not so accessible to us.

The people asked Jesus for a sign to prove their faith in Him. They remind Him that in the desert the manna had allowed them to experience God’s presence among them in a tangible way.

First of all, Jesus teaches them how to interpret this sign in the desert. Although they had Moses as a human mediator, it was God who gave them the manna. This is an important clarification from the Lord because, since we tend to focus on the things that touch our senses, it is easy to dwell on the mediator and forget the One who sent him.

But it is God who gives life to the world, in every sense. Our blindness does not perceive this, even though God pervades all reality, although we cannot usually perceive Him with our senses. What is obvious to the believer remains hidden to the unbeliever. And perhaps the believer is not always aware that other people do not yet know this light of faith, so that what he sees by faith remains hidden to them.

Did the listeners understand those words of Jesus when He declared Himself to be the Bread of Life, or was it simply a mystery to them, a mysterious statement that they could not understand?

“Lord, give us this bread always”, the people asked Jesus; and the Lord answered them by offering Himself with this wonderful promise: “He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst”.

We Christians know how true these words are, because whoever finds faith and enters into a living relationship with God, satisfies his deepest hunger and thirst for life. We have the joy of being fed at the Lord’s two tables: the table of his Word and the table of the Eucharist. With regard to the Word of God, the Fathers speak of being able to “chew” it, that is, to masticate it again and again, so that it penetrates us more and more and satisfies our soul. In this way, by serving ourselves at the table of the word and the holy bread of the Eucharist, we are satisfied.

This hunger for God, this longing for true life, is inscribed in us human beings. But there is a danger that man does not perceive this hunger when he receives so many other satisfactions in earthly life. Our modern society offers so many substitutes, so many apparent satisfactions, that the spiritual hunger seems to disappear. Cardinal Sarah also laments the “terror of noise” in today’s world, where people hardly know silence, which is more likely to awaken spiritual hunger.

But God also knows how to reach the people of our time, to meet them and offer them true life. We should ask Him to show us the ways to reach hearts and learn to recognise the right moment to transmit His Word. As important as it is to serve the poor and to share earthly goods with them, it is even more important to offer them that bread which satisfies their deepest longings and calms the restlessness in the human heart. This is the bread that truly satisfies!

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