Our Deepest Desire

bread-of-life-tabernacleOne of the most famous and insightful sentences in Christian history comes from the first page of Saint Augustine’s Confessions. As the book unfolds, Augustine describes his extensive experiences with unfulfilled desire. And so as if to give his conclusion beforehand, in the very first paragraph of the book he writes, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” An insatiable craving, a psychic abyss, unsatisfied desire and desires, and the deep longing for a faraway land — all these point to and find fulfillment in God alone, despite our many failed experiments with all sorts of substitutes.

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What we hear

The daily Mass gospels for this week (April 27-May 2) have covered John 6:22-69, known as “Bread of Life Discourse.” This same gospel discourse is covered during the middle of “Ordinary Time” in Year B of the liturgical cycle of readings. The discourse includes the highly Christological statement: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35) Continue reading

This week in Scripture

This week the daily gospels from Monday (May 6) through Friday (May 10) are taken from John 6 – the great Eucharistic Discourse. Elsewhere I have posted commentaries on this remarkable chapter and will reprise the posts over the course of the week. There are two contexts for this week’s series of daily Gospels: (1) the miraculous as signs and (2) the people’s reaction to the sign. In other gospels the miraculous feeding presents the sign, here, there is a more expansive explanation of the sign by Jesus. The intent seems focused on explaining the theological and Christological significance of Jesus’ action. All of this is as you might expect for a gospel written some 20-30 years after St. Mark’s narrative. Continue reading

What is the difference?

Today’s gospel is the last part of the “Bread of Life Discourse” from the Gospel of John. The disciples who have heard Jesus’ preaching, experienced his healing power, seen him command the stormy seas, witnessed the miracles, and hope him to be the promised Messiah – in today’s account we discover that, for some, Jesus’ claim that he is the “bread come down from heaven is a breaking point. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?…As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”  For some it was all a bridge too far, the last straw, and with no reason to stay, they left.  For some, there was motivation, desire, a reason to remain.  I think we have all been there at some point in our lives. What is the difference between those who stay and those who go?

We can all think about our own lives and experiences as a way to plumb the answer. All this make me think of swimming. I have swum competitively most of my life: high school, college, and even these days in the Master’s swim program. I wasn’t gifted with fast-twitch muscles and so have never had a very good sprint. The 200- and 500 yard freestyle, 200-yard backstroke, those were my best events. More of a grinder than a sprinter. But, a couple of years ago I competed in a meet and for some reason signed up for the 1500-meter freestyle – a little outside my usual range, but certainly do-able. Continue reading

When things change

The good news is that during this summer we are graced to hear the Gospel of John, chapter 6 – the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It is a wonderfully-told narrative, it is theologically rich, it is incredibly human, and above all it is profoundly Eucharistic. The bad news is that is divided over five weeks of Gospels, breaking up the narrative and challenging our understanding in continuity as we hear what was always meant to be one cohesive gospel. This is week three of five… hmmm? So, let me do this – I will give you a brief summary of my homilies from the last two weeks (or you can read them here: (“If only I’d know…” and  “The grace to persevere”) and then connect it to this week’s readings. Continue reading