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.