What the Heart Craves
  • Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pentecost 11

First reading:  2 Sam. 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Ps. 130
Alternate: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8
Eph. 4:25-5:2 • John 6:35, 41-51

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells the grumbling crowd. It’s an immense claim, and they rightly jump at its implications. He does not say I am a bread of life: a wise teacher, one who has come to reveal God’s will to you, but the bread of life, for which you have long hungered.

I am the final bread, Jesus is claiming. “Whoever comes to me will not be hungry, and whoever believes in me will not be thirsty.” The tenses of the Greek verbs imply a future satisfaction, a day when, through Jesus, all hunger and thirst will end. Our desire for the life of God is not satisfied at once when we begin to believe, but we begin in Christ a kind of training of the spiritual senses, a preparation of the heart for the great good that he alone can supply.

“There is a certain craving of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet,” Saint Augustine wrote. “Here, we can more easily be hungered than satisfied, … there we shall be filled.”

Only the complete healing and transformation that lies on the other side of the final resurrection can fully satisfy us. We are made to feast on the bread of glory, to sup at the wedding banquet. We will only find our true delight when Christ is “all in all,” and the whole creation is filled with his deathless life.

Yet “he who believes has eternal life.” We are dry, and walk eyes veiled, yet “faith’s shades” are powerful. In the midst of a world passing away, we begin the life of the world to come. We are “drawn by the Father” to Christ, and to the fulfillment of all he has promised. He is the bread of life for us now, the source of the transforming life of God. And he will be our endless feast in the world to come.

These promises are expressed profoundly in the Eucharist. Like the bread laid out for a weary, heartbroken Elijah by the angels, it is our viaticum, the wayfarer’s dole. It sustains us now, as we journey on to the “mountain of God.” It helps us along the path right before us, “keeping us in eternal life.” Yet it also proclaims the glorious fulfillment to come, praying that God will “at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is good,” wrote the psalmist. This promise is embodied in a particular way in the Eucharist. Taste now, and in time, by his grace, you will see. Eat this bread, and let it teach you to hunger for more.

Look It Up
Read Psalm 34:5. How is the Eucharist a “radiant” feast?

Think About It
“We are drawn,” Augustine says, “by delight.” How is God changing your delights?

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