Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on August 4, 2018 at 6:00pm Mass and August 5, 2018 at the 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
A woman goes to the doctor for a checkup and gets a poor bill of health. The doctor tells her, “Your cholesterol is too high and you are overweight. You must change your eating habits. Remember, you are what you eat.” They agree to make an appointment in six weeks to re-evaluate her condition.
In six weeks the woman returns to the doctor and the doctor is furious. “Your cholesterol is up ten points and you’ve gained twenty pounds!” he yells at her. “What have you been doing the past six weeks?”
“Eating Girl Scout cookies,” she replied.
“Why would you risk your health eating Girl Scout cookies?” the doctor asks her.
“Well, you said, ‘You are what you eat,’ so I have been eating box after box of Thin Mints in the hopes becoming thin.”
This past week after six months of hard work, I finally finished my last box of Girl Scout cookies. It is a major accomplishment in my life because I had so many of them, dozens and dozens of boxes lying around waiting to be eaten. I support the Girl Scouts, so I bought them off girls here at church, I bought them from girls that came to my front door, I bought them from the girls that have tables in front of the grocery store, I bought them from their parents at work, I bought them whenever they were available, and what I learned from this experience is that – there is more to life than Girl Scout cookies! I need something more in my life!
In today’s gospel, that is what the crowd experiences. They need something more in their lives, although they do not realize it yet. Last week we heard the gospel of the feeding of the five thousand. The people were hungry and our Lord recognized their need for food and so he fed them. Today’s gospel is the continuation of that encounter. After he feeds them, Jesus leaves, but the crowds get into boats and search for him. Like so many people at the time of Jesus, they are poor and often hungry. When they find Jesus, they want more food. But now that the people have been fed and their stomachs are full, our Lord wants them to see beyond perishable food and living day to day, and think about spiritual food and eternal life.
If you have taken a psychology or a business course, you may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is the idea that a person must have their basic needs in life satisfied before they can satisfy higher or more advanced levels of needs. It is usually represented by a five level pyramid. On the lowest level, are physical needs: food, clothing, and shelter. It’s like those Snickers commercials, you can’t be a very good actor, athlete, or grandma if you are hungry. Nobody can do any work if your office is too hot or too cold, especially if everyone complains about it. You need your basic needs satisfied first. That is what Jesus does for the people in today’s gospel. He has fed them and taken care of their basic needs. But then he asks them to go beyond their basic level of needs and desires, and to begin to consider the highest order of needs and desires, God and eternal life.
There are people with us today who are like the crowds in today’s gospel, they need their basic needs to be met. They are homeless and hungry. I see several signs on my way to work that say, “I am a homeless veteran and I’m hungry” or there is the guy with the sign that says, “I’ve got to be honest with you, I need cigarettes and beer.” We have people each week that go to the Lighthouse and to the meal at St. Paul’s because they are hungry and in need. We want everyone to be God-fearing and good people that contribute in some way to society, but people cannot reach the higher levels of being and contribute if their basic needs are not being met. Jesus recognized this and took care of the crowd’s hunger first, before he asked them to consider the higher thing they were truly hungering and thirsting.
We are also like the crowds in today’s gospel. Even when we have satisfied every level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in our lives, we still hunger and thirst for more. We have food, clothing, and shelter, level one. We are safe, level two. We are loved by family and friends, level three. We have esteem and success, level four. We have achieved self-actualization (I am important and have purpose), level five. But we still long for more, and late in his career Abraham Maslow realized it and wrote about it, but history never changed his Hierarchy of Needs to include it. There is a sixth and higher level to the Hierarchy of Needs, the spiritual. The idea that it’s not just about me, it’s about going outside of ourselves to reach out to others like the homeless and hungry, and going beyond ourselves to search for and find God. That is what happened to the crowd in today’s gospel. They were full, but they were not yet satisfied. They wanted more food, but Jesus told them about what they truly desired – the bread of life.
So many of us today are trying to satisfy our hunger and thirst in life with lower level needs: eating Girl Scout cookies, drinking, social media, pornography, drugs, money, and all this other stuff, but we need something more. We can only be truly satisfied when our highest level of need is met, the spiritual – the need for God. We have an infinite longing and it can only be fulfilled by an infinite God. We can only be satisfied with the food that endures for eternal life, not with boxes and boxes of Girl Scout cookies or whatever else we are filling our lives with. We are only complete when we connect our lives with the one who has given us life.
Just like the crowds in the gospel, we are about to share a meal with our Lord. Because of that, just as he did to the crowds, Jesus is asking us to work, not for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. He wants us to go outside ourselves and beyond ourselves, above our egos and our low-level desires, to search out, find, and serve God and our neighbor. He wants us to satisfy our hunger, thirst, and infinite longing with what we truly desire above all things, eternal union with God. We need to be like the crowds and get into our boats and seek out our Lord, because we need something more.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Our Lord is waiting for us to come to him to satisfy our infinite hunger and thirst, and to do so for all eternity!
Rejoice and be glad!