The Food that Endures
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God." Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." So they said to "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat." So Jesus said to them, "Amen, Amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst"
In high school, I had an experience that I will never forget. I was involved in a variety of activities that I enjoyed and kept me busy including baseball, basketball, a girlfriend and several school clubs. I really enjoyed those blessings in my life. Yet, there was something in my heart that was unsatisfied. There was an ache in me, something deep inside that cried out for more.
I was greatly blessed with the opportunity to get involved with the high school youth group at St. Anthony Parish. It was a Catholic Life Community (CLC). There, in the midst of Christian community with my peers, I encountered the great gift of Jesus Christ in new and powerful ways. It was a process (indeed a relationship) that developed over time. In CLC, I attended several amazing retreats, dove into the Scriptures, began to attend Mass during the week, went to confession regularly, took time to serve those who were less fortunate and discovered leadership gifts. I did not quite realize it at the time, but I was getting to know the One who could satisfy that great hunger deep in my soul.
In today’s passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus challenges the crowd pursuing Him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
In the same way that our bodies hunger for food, our souls hunger for spiritual nourishment. As human beings, we are an amazing mix of flesh and spirit. I am not sure why we find it so hard to grasp that our souls need to be fed just like our bodies do. We need spiritual food that endures to eternal life.
Christianity has a pretty simple message: Jesus is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart. As Our Lord spoke to the crowd about food from heaven, they begged Him: “Sir, give us this bread always.” He responds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus is the Bread of Life. He feeds us in many ways—on retreat, through the Scriptures, in Christian community, in song among believers, in nature and in the face of the poor and needy.
Yet, the most precious table He sets for us is the Mass. Here we are fed at the table of God’s Word and of His Precious Body and Blood. Jesus longed to eat this meal with His apostles because His love for us is so great that He chooses to give His very self for our nourishment.
It took me a while to grasp what happened to me in high school. I encountered as a young man and grew to love Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. I came to realize that He was the answer to that ache deep within my being. He was the nourishment for which my soul longed. He gave Himself to me in a very profound way at each Mass.
I can’t possibly thank enough my parents who introduced me to Jesus and the leaders of that CLC who helped me fall in love with Him who gives me food that endures to eternal life.
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