Meditation for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 29th, 2018
“They say that one who is satiated cannot understand someone who is hungry; to that, I would add that one hungry person does not understand another hungry person.” – Dostoevsky
Every one of us hungers. Every one of us seeks for something that will nourish us. We hunger for affection, for relationships, for real things.
We are born with a natural instinct that reaches out for sustenance; it is a survival instinct, a drive to live.
We grow up and yet keep seeking something that can nourish us. But sometimes we also face indigestion, or the food we find is expired, and sometimes we don’t get to eat.
This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to contemplate humanity that hungers: ourselves.
There is no distinction between the people we are introduced to: they are all hungry. Perhaps they – and we – do not even realize what is causing the hunger. These people that follow Jesus do not merely want to survive.
When you’re hungry, the first thing you think of is yourself. It can be very difficult to stop and think about the hunger that others feel.
But Jesus asks us to stop and consider just that. What do those before Him hunger for? Jesus asks us to de-center ourselves, to stop being so self-centered. He proposes that we stop focusing on our own hunger.
Philip and Andrew reacted to this proposal by defending themselves with common sense and the logic of the economy. They argue that it’s impossible to feed the others without the necessary resources. In the end, it’s impossible to meet the needs of others.
Jesus asks us to go beyond this logic, to a logic of simply giving. The miracle occurs only when the disciples are willing to abandon the thought of what they possessed. In this text from the Gospel of John, Jesus does not ask that the loaves and the fishes be multiplied or divided, He simply asks that they be given.
Philip and Andrew notice that their hunger is satiated at the very moment that they concern themselves with satiating the hunger of those around them and sharing what they have. Centering our attention only on our needs never helps us resolve our problems.
When life is like a desert without hope, Jesus revives us.
These people that follow Him no longer have to cross through the desert like the people of Israel; they can enjoy the green pastures that Jesus has prepared for them.
The risk, from that point on, as happens in the spiritual life, is to seek after bread alone: consolations that satiate our hunger. Jesus, however, sought a relationship through the sharing of that bread.
If we seek Jesus for consolation alone, He draws away. He asks us to look beyond our hunger. Jesus hungers to be sought after, like the bridegroom in the Song of Songs.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
- What do you hunger for at this point in your life?
- Are you aware of the hunger of those around you?
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