Spirituality of the Readings
What Do You Want?
Do you remember the last time you were thirsty? How your mouth felt dry and brittle and ready to cry out? If you were near to a stream, maybe you buried your face in it and drank to your heart’s desire.
And give a thought to hunger. Most people reading this will never have experienced true wrenching hunger, common in parts of Africa and Asia. We all know that our stomach cannot remain empty forever—our bodies demand energy. And guess what. They can go on just a short, short time before thirst must be assuaged.
There are other longings in us too, as the following poignant, anonymous poem from the 16th century illustrates:
Western wind when wilt thou blow
that the small rain down can rain
Christ if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again.
How can four short lines express such complete, aching desire, deprivation and yearning? Spend just a few moments with this poem and you will feel it. Warmth, sleep, sun, rain, the seasons, and most of all, encircling love.
Fact is, we are small beings. We keep our equilibrium only by precarious balancing of need and fulfillment. Even our existence is given to us second by second, never all at once. What would it be like to have every moment of your whole life happen right now? Impossible to imagine, you say. That is why God portions out our lives into one day at a time, one minute, one nano-second.
What is my point?
Underneath all these hopes and wants and desires, mingling with them and undergirding all of them, there silently nestles the desire for God.
Every human being is blest with this longing. God is the only one who can quench our deepest thirst, the only one whose love can create us and keep us. We want the beloved one, whose arms hold us gently in safety throughout the dangers. We yearn for this as we trace our way through time.
Sometimes you and I employ substitutes as an escape from that desire. Fast living. Fast food, fast cars, convenience, comfort, unrestricted sexual fulfillment (without responsibility), and the “right” of complete freedom to do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it. If we can remember what it was we wanted.
Wisdom says in the First Reading, “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live.” Stop thinking that your life will ever make sense if you fill it with piles of stuff and forget the one thing you need the most: closeness to God and closeness through God to everyone and everything else.
In the Gospel Jesus gives us ultimate food and drink. It is actually the most simple gift of all: bread that is his body and drink that is his blood, poured out for us.
We need to calm down and receive peacefully this body and blood of Christ into our own fleshly selves. That way we can allow our realest hunger and thirst at Sunday Mass—not instead of the other needs, but undergirding them. We eat the bread which Christ calls “true food,” the blood which he makes “true drink.”
These nourish the moment-by-moment course of our lives.
If we let them.
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University