From time to time we read or hear amazing wilderness survival stories. People who find themselves lost in the wilderness are forced to survive without food and water, sometimes for days or weeks, before they are rescued.
Survivor stories usually include the many creative and sometimes frantic ways the lost people managed to find sources of water and food to keep them alive as they braved the elements in the wilderness. These accounts capture our imaginations as they remind us of our dependence on the forces of nature, and our primal need for water and food.
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,” says Jesus in today’s Gospel. “I am the bread of life.” We are told that Jesus’ disciples found his words difficult to understand and accept. Today we too may find Jesus’ words difficult to grasp.
We think of food at least three times a day. But do we stop to reflect on our spiritual hungers, the deep hunger of our heart and will? Do we seek after spiritual food to satisfy our longing for communion with God and with one another?
Our readings today invite us to make the psalmist’s prayer our own as we taste and see the goodness of the Lord in the mystery of heavenly food. In his life and his death on the cross, Jesus offers to each one of us his very self.
Jesus doesn’t point to sources of spiritual food; he himself is the bread of life come down from heaven. Jesus is the spiritual food of God’s love for each one of us. In this divine food we find our nourishment and strength for the journey of faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that God alone satisfies the deepest hungers of our heart. This is a bold claim, if you stop and think about it. There is nothing in this created world that can ultimately satisfy our deepest hungers, longings and desires. Only God can.
Jesus offers himself freely to us in his sacred body and blood in every Eucharist so we might taste and see the goodness of the Lord, if we choose. His spiritual food is free of cost with no strings attached. Will I respond to Jesus’ invitation today? Will I receive the spiritual nourishment of the Eucharist that strengthens me to pray in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”