Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15
Responsoral Psalm: 78:3-4, 23-25, 54
Second reading: Eph 4:17, 20-24
Gospel: Jn 6:24-35
By Kevin Perrotta
Some years ago, I began to lead pilgrimage groups in the Holy Land. I noticed that the local guides urge pilgrims to carry a bottle of water and constantly remind them to drink. Now, it’s a hot land, so of course there’s a danger of getting dehydrated.
But at first, I was puzzled. Why the reminders? Don’t we naturally feel thirsty when we need to hydrate?
I asked my son, a physician, about this. Well, he said, there are physical conditions and medications that can interfere with the feeling of thirst so that you don’t feel thirsty even when you’re getting dehydrated. In a sense, you’re thirsty but don’t know it.
I was reminded of this by today’s Gospel.
Jesus creates a sensation by multiplying a few loaves of bread and a few fish into a meal for thousands. The next day he’s mobbed by people wanting him to do it again. This is understandable. Probably more than half the people in that society lived in constant hunger or on the edge of it. You bet they were drawn to Jesus!
Besides wanting them to have a good meal, Jesus performed the miracle to lead them to see something. He came as the answer to a profound need, which he alone can fill. He used their hunger — something they were painfully aware of — to help them grasp the importance of it.
Jesus was offering them, in himself, a direct, personal, life-giving relationship with God as Father. The need for this is created into every human person. But many of us, like many in the crowd that day, don’t feel it very much. We’re like the pilgrims whose physical conditions and medications interfere with their feeling thirsty even when they’re dangerously dehydrated.
Preachers are like the guides who constantly remind the pilgrims to keep drinking. “Pray!” the preachers say. “Read the Bible! Receive Communion! Come to the one who can meet your deepest need!”
In response, a question we might ask ourselves is whether things inside us, things in the way we live, in the goals we have set for ourselves and the desires that drive us are diverting our attention from the need that nothing else but Jesus can meet. With a little quiet reflection, perhaps we could get in touch with our hunger beneath all hungers, our thirst beneath all thirsts.
What goals or desires are distracting you from the love of God?
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.