"Whoever comes to me will never be hungry”.
Can you imagine? No more being tempted to grab a chocolate biscuit just before lunch as tummies start to rumble. No more having another portion because we’re not quite full. No more scenes of communities and countries having to deal with the brutal reality of failed harvests and famines and war and food shortages. What a world that would be when everyone has enough to feel satisfied and complete. The thing is though, that when Jesus declares himself to be the bread of life that should be sufficient for everyone, he is not actually talking about artisan bread or your favourite sliced varieties. He really is talking about himself and how he wants to share his very self with everyone. And Jesus is not talking about physical hunger, but rather a deep spiritual hunger that shows itself not in tummies making noises, but rather in our hearts aching and being full of longing instead.
Throughout the story of salvation, throughout the millennia of God’s journey with the world and its people, God has sought to be generous in all things. God, in every conceivable way, looks to make connections and relationships with people so that they can grow and flourish and so that they can worship God and have God at the very heart of all that they are and all that they hope to be. The story of the Exodus, when God liberates the Hebrews from a life of slavery and control, is not just about freedom and new beginnings. It’s about creating a community that is built on the foundations of life and valuing one another. It’s about being a group of ordinary people, of all ages, that come together to worship the God who has set them free and desires that they should always have enough resources to be the very best versions of themselves. Sometimes God’s people got it right and live life in a full and beautiful way, but there are plenty of other occasions when they get it wrong and complain and grumble and simply take no joy in being a community of faith and love. Perhaps there was some spiritual hunger going on for them too as they wrestled with a life lived in the wilderness and a sense of great uncertainty about what the future held for them. Trusting in God to provide, from a place of deep need, takes a lot of faith and courage.
It’s a story we see again as Jesus spends his time teaching and being with the crowds who simply want more and more of him. No doubt many in the various crowds were carrying their own hunger with them, and much of it would have been spiritual. People followed Jesus wanting healing, wanting to be made whole, wanting to feel loved and valued. And Jesus again reveals the generous nature of God, by declaring that he is the bread of life, and it will be enough. This bread will not be like the manna that appeared in the wilderness, that was there for a day then vanished, leaving everyone hoping and praying that more would appear the next day. Jesus, as the bread of life, is always present, always there, always waiting for you to reach out and let him feed and sustain you. Jesus is always walking alongside you, always longing to have that close relationship that lets hope and joy be real and possible.
So today’s gospel is a bit like an invitation really. Jesus is saying, I’m here and I’m always going to be here, so please come along and say you’ll let me be a part of your life. Jesus is saying, come and share in the bread, which is me, every time you gather for worship and communion. Jesus is saying, every time you eat my bread and drink my cup, I will be there in the very midst of you. This is such an incredible invitation because it changes lives; it can change you and it can change me. Where there has been a hunger and a longing that you couldn’t shift Jesus offers himself and says, it is enough. And that can be the starting place for a lifetime’s journey of relying on Jesus to guide and direct you as you work out how you can best lead your life knowing that you are sustained by Jesus, the bread of life.
- What spiritual hunger have you experienced or are experiencing?
- In what ways has sharing in communion had an impact on how you live out your faith?