In today’s Gospel reading, Christ miraculously feeds a crowd of hungry people. The people recognize him as a prophet, and gather to bring him to Jerusalem to proclaim him king. Jesus responds by fleeing to the solitude of the mountains.
Let’s rephrase this telling. A crowd of people, living in a country beset by political strife, gather to march on the capital. They are eager to replace their corrupt, ineffectual, incompetent ruling classes, who spend more time arguing about the minutiae of law than they do responding to the hunger of the people for bread and for justice. They have just seen a man whom they regard as a leader, one with power and legitimate claim to authority, and they long for him to lead their movement, to lead them in their resistance to the evils of their day.
Perhaps this telling hits close to home. Gazing out on the political landscape of this country, how many of us long for justice in the face of leaders embroiled in cruelty, corruption, self-importance, and outright malice? How many of us locate in Christ the supreme example of leadership, and, comparing him to the afflictions of our country now, how many of us channel Jesus in our protestations of this state of affairs? Before I came here, I used to want to work in politics. I even ran for public office. The political environment we face at present has awakened a long-held desire of mine to enter the fray, and the convictions of my faith highlight to me just how much injustice, just how much falsehood, we currently face. If the opportunity presented itself, I too would long to crown Christ.
2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:8-13; John 6:1-21
If someone were to ask you what it feels like to be hungry, how would you answer? Perhaps you would begin by describing what a hunger pang is like, how your stomach feels as if it is tied in knots. You might explain that when hungry, your blood sugar drops and you get a headache or are prone to be shaky, mentally dull and lacking of energy. You could speak about how embarrassing it is when your stomach begins to growl, usually at an awkward time, like during the silences during the Prayers of the People, eliciting a polite smile from your neighbor. All of us here today know what it feels like to be hungry because it is a common experience. No matter who you are or your station in life, your body needs food regularly in order to function properly.
Now what would you say if that same person asked you what it looks like to be hungry? Look at your neighbor, do they look hungry and if so, how can you tell? I have to admit when I reflected on this question, I cheated and googled the question: “what does hunger look like,” then clicked the images icon and what I saw was alarming. There was a picture of African children with distant eyes looking at a camera while holding empty bowls. Another showed a group of what appeared to be Indian women and children with their hands extended towards someone handing out food, their faces drawn with a look of desperation. Another was a black and white photograph from the Great Depression in this country showing men, women, and children looking deflated, waiting in a long line at a soup kitchen hoping to get a meal. Perhaps none of us here present are experiencing, or have ever experienced hunger of this magnitude, certainly not I. But I suspect it all begins with that one hunger pang, the body’s natural indication of need. Hunger is an indication of need, and it is automatic.
2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:10-19; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
Our worship of God finds its fullest expression in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is the offering through which we return thanks for all that God has given us in creation, and in our redemption through the pouring out of Christ’s life-blood on the cross. In this sacrifice of bread and wine all that we do and are is joined by the Holy Spirit to the eternal offering of Christ on behalf of the world. It is the meal which intensifies our union with Christ, draws us together as a community, and nourishes us with the grace needed for our transformation and our mission. It is the mystery through which we are caught up into the communion of saints on earth and in heaven, the mystical Body of Christ. It is the gift through which we experience a foretaste of the life to come.
The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist