As I grow older, I notice that the Holy Spirit is working quietly in me to make me realize that, in fooling myself, (alas, something which I do often) at times, I try also the impossible: I try to fool God or, at least, I try to slip a fast one past him. As Jesus points out in the Gospel of John (6:24-35), there is nothing new in this foolish attempt of mine. Our Lord, who is Truth itself, finds each one of his people to be too precious and too lovable to let them live with that illusion.
In John 6:26, 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.”
Well, today could be the grace-filled day in which we decide to embrace the comforting fact that we are too precious to the Lord and too lovable in spite of our numerous flaws and sins. It would be very wise and most profitable for us to find out the wrong and the correct reasons for seeking him. Taking the Gospel as our guide, we consider first the possible wrong reasons for seeking the Lord.
Those who loved darkness because their deeds were wicked sought him to silence him, to do away with him as quickly and as effectively as they could. Those who were driven by self-interest sought him because they saw him as the one—god-sent, they thought—to fix all their major problems without requiring them to contribute with hard work, dedication and perseverance. The self-righteous who thought they had found the sure way to force God to reward them for their good deeds and, thus, had uncovered the secret to hold more sway with him, sought the Lord for confirmation that they were on the right path and to receive accolades and praises from him.
But there were many more who sought the Lord for the right reasons: Nicodemus put aside his stature, vast knowledge and importance to seek the Lord so that he could be born anew into the Kingdom of God. Philip and Andrew sought him because they saw in him the Lamb of God destined to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross for the salvation of the whole world. Some Greeks sought the Lord because they had been docile to the silent inspiration of the Holy Spirit who had prepared their minds and hearts for the whole Truth. Mary of Magdala sought the Lord to fill the void that she felt in her heart. Countless people sought the Lord Jesus to be healed of their physical infirmities and wound up being healed at a much deeper and more complete level.The list goes on.
However, the correct reason that holds in itself all other correct reasons mentioned here is the one of looking for Jesus as the Bread of Life to feed our minds and hearts so that we will never hunger or thirst again. Now, this sublime reason for seeking Jesus is the ultimate one because it is what he himself suggests! As with anything proposed, taught or revealed by Jesus, this ultimate reason for seeking him eliminates automatically all the wrong ones.
To be more specific, by seeking and accepting Jesus as THE Gift from heaven sent by the Father, we renounce freely and deliberately any attempt at using God for our personal gain; and we silence any desire to control him. Concomitantly, we accept the scary prospect of welcoming ANY outcome that the Father would see fitting and becoming of us as his children redeemed by the blood of his Son and destined for everlasting glory.
This deliberate, all-encompassing surrender can take place only after the two main signs that Jesus has already done for us become so compelling that we are firmly convinced, beyond any doubt and hesitation, of his unfailing love and unlimited power. These two signs are so crucial that we re-present them for ourselves every time we gather to do Eucharist. They are summarized in the mystery of faith acclamation: “We proclaim 1) your death, O Lord, and profess 2) your resurrection until you come again.” Consequently, we should strive to make our prayer free of self-interest, void of manipulation, and open to any outcome possible.
Whenever we pray: “Sir, give us this bread always,” the Lord listens to us, the Lord, whom we cannot fool or slip anything past, would determine, from the sincerity of our hearts, that we do not want this Bread just for a while, on a trial basis, or for as long as it is heart-warming and palatable, but ALWAYS. We pray because we intend to be nourished and sustained by this Bread not only when everything is fine, when our path is smooth, and when we sail with favorable wind on a calm sea, but also in prolonged turbulences and headwinds on a rough sea.
Indeed, this has to be truly a prayer, i.e. an act of worship, a humble, earnest, insistent request made to the Father as to the only Giver of such Gift. As we grow in docility to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, the re-enacting of the signs of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our Eucharistic Celebrations will gradually enable us to make the most of the Bread from heaven and fill our days with prayerful gratitude and rejoicing, regardless of the situation in which we happen to be living.
However, the ultimate evidence that we are benefitting fully from feeding on the Bread of Life will appear when we exhibit more-than-patient endurance in suffering. We will find ourselves emboldened and much more courageous in bearing witness to Christ and to his Church, no matter the personal cost to be exacted. All believers who seek to feed on this heavenly Bread for boldness and courage do so because they have become painfully aware that the Church, whom they love as the Bride of Christ, is living in very turbulent times even in this country, which used to protect religious freedom.
The tragedy is that so many less committed believers are content with the illusion of the live-and-let live axiom. They do not see the need to feed on the Lord to become genuine fighters for Truth on the side of Christ and his Church. They do not want to be engaged in pushing back when they, or other believers, are bullied by the intolerance of rabid lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender activists. They do not see the need to be strengthened by the Bread from heaven to reject the unethical impositions of the Health and Human Services mandate. They do not mind much that the liberal Left attempts to cower true believers into silence; they do not mind enough to fight back. They are not horrified by the callousness of Planned Parenthood bent on making a handsome profit from selling body parts of dismembered babies. They are seemingly indifferent to having their religious freedom taken away from them piece by piece.
Given this worrisome situation, I firmly believe that the Lord Jesus wants more and more believers to make their prayerful request for the Bread of Life to get the courage needed to bear witness to him and to his Church in concrete deeds. This I believe because of the experience that the Church has acquired over the last twenty centuries. Invariably, the prayers after Communion on the feasts of her martyrs remind us that they could pay the ultimate price for Christ because they had eaten and were strengthened by the Bread of Life.
Hence, there is more than an invitation in these official prayers of the Church; there is the surest guarantee of victory.