The Hunger of Christ

When was the last time you felt real hunger? Those deep pangs which affect you not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. Hunger is one of our most visceral passions, and as Snickers is quick to point out, you are not you when you’re hungry. 

            This is precisely why Jesus approaches the crowd in the story of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39). It says he has “compassion” on the crowd and that he is unwilling to let them leave hungry. A more apt translation of that word is something like “cut to the heart” or “moved from his inner depths.” You see, we all hunger deeply in this life. Some of us may hunger for food, but all of us hunger for the presence and love of God. In other words, “our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord,” to quote Augustine. 

            But if we look at the Gospel, we are not left alone in our deepest hunger. Even if we find ourselves without access to the sacraments because of sickness or being in a state of quarantine, we must remember that there is nothing, absolutely nothing which can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). The same compassion, or gut-wrenching desire of Jesus to feed the 4,000 is the same desire he has to nourish us, even right now. 

            And we must believe this with unshakeable faith and the certainty of hope. The disciples, too, were without the necessary bread to meet the demands of the crowd of four thousand. Yet, Jesus, even in their weakness, came to them and asked them for whatever they had: 7 loaves and a few fish. And with these little gifts of faith and trust, Jesus took them, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. And not only were the 4,000 men (perhaps closer to fifteen or 20,000 people total) satisfied, there were seven baskets left over! 

            Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal about those seven baskets? Those seven baskets were symbolic of the 7 original Gentile nations. In the mindset of the day, there was enough bread left over to feed people to the ends of the earth. The compassion of Jesus was not only for those 4,000, it is for all of humanity. This is why Jesus Himself thirsts from the Cross – He desires the covenantal love of the Eucharist for each and everyone one of us (John 19:28) – and there is nothing, absolutely no distance or situation which can keep us apart from this love. 

            Whether you are a daily recipient of Holy Communion or happen to be homebound and shut-in, we can still take whatever little bit we have, and give it to the Lord – and we know with certainty, that he will take our small offerings, bless them, break them, and give them not only for our own salvation, but for that of the whole world. It is His hunger for us that transforms ordinary bread into His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Imagine what His Hunger could do for our heart if we freely handed it over to Him to be taken, blessed, broken, and given. 

Graduation, Diplomas, and Degrees: What is your identity?

This time of year is always marked by transitions. Whether it be graduations, weddings, or simply traveling for the summer, we often find ourselves moving from one place to another, or from one state of life to the next. And what do we typically do? We seek to commemorate these things in some way. We have diplomas to certify our accomplishments, marriage certificates signed and sealed, and pictures taken in the places we have been. These are all great things, and indeed things to celebrate. It makes me think of the new college graduate who is able to display his fresh new diploma in a mahogany frame in his or her brand new cubicle. Certainly, moments such as these offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

So, what is the greatest accomplishment in your life?

Graduation? Your career? Athletic or fitness accomplishments?

Look at the walls in your home or office. What do they display most prominently?

It seems to me all of these things are a mere drop in the bucket compared to our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. Degrees and diplomas are fine, but they cannot be our fundamental benchmark for success. Likewise, we can be the most athletic and fittest person in the room, but we all face the deterioration which comes with age. Even the most successful and stable careers are fleeting.

What is not, though, is your baptism as a son or daughter of God. On that day, whether you were an unconscious child or an adult, God the Father breathed His Spirit into you, configured you to His Son’s body, and claimed you for his own. In such an act, which we can do absolutely nothing to earn, God indelibly marked our souls for all eternity to indicate that we are His. 

So, I propose two means to reclaiming our identities as sons and daughters of God.

First, call the parish where you were baptized and ask them to send you a copy of your baptismal certificate. If you have been confirmed, received first communion, were married or ordained – all of these things will also be noted. Then, go buy a nice frame for it and hang it in a prominent place in your home or office. After all, this is not a mere diploma that attests to a degree, but rather a certificate that attests to your destiny with the Father in heaven. I can’t think of any greater reminder to hang on your wall. 

Once you do this, I suggest making a daily renewal of your baptismal vows first thing in the morning. Perhaps with a little holy water font next to your baptismal certificate, you could bless yourself with the holy water and recite the Creed, or simply say: “I am a beloved child of God. Thank you, Lord, for calling me to heaven.”

Lastly, as we look to Jesus in the Eucharist, let us not forget this fact: While we were adopted by God the Father in our baptism, through Christ’s most holy Body and Blood which mingles with our very own bodies and blood, we truly become sons and daughters of God by Blood. Our fragile bodies take on His own glorious Body, and our own blood mingles with the Blood of the resurrected Lord. In short, as we look at Jesus in the Eucharist, we see the clearest indicator of who we are now, and who we are called to be in eternity. 

That, my friends, is your truest identity.