“An Increasing Hunger and Satisfaction for the Bread of Life” (5/11/2011)
Rev. Br. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
Jesus, the Word, says, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” The same Word, however, speaks in Sirach chapter 24 as personified Wisdom, dwelling in Zion. There, Wisdom says, “Those who eat me will hunger for more, and those who drink me will thirst for more.”
There’s a tension here. On the one hand, the Word says that those who come to him will never hunger or thirst, yet on the other hand, personified Wisdom will make them hunger for more and thirst for more.
There are two quick ways to resolve this tension. First, we can make the proper distinctions. The hunger and thirst that Jesus promises to take away is the frustrated yearning of a life of sin, a godless life. Jesus, then, will take away the hunger and thirst of a life of emptiness. He is the Bread of Life that will fill the vacant soul of the lost.
The second solution is to emphasize the future tense. Whoever comes to Jesus will never hunger and will never thirst—that is, later in heaven. They will never be in want in heaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Bread of Eternal Life.
These two solutions are good ones, but there may be another approach as well. It is certainly true that when we taste Divine Wisdom, we hunger and thirst for more. This is how we ended up in religious life. This is also how we ended up in this chapel at 7 in the morning. Divine Wisdom makes us hunger and thirst for more.
How is it then that Jesus, the Word, says whoever comes to him will never hunger or thirst? Well perhaps the answer is a few phrases later when Jesus says, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” The implication also seems to be, as often as he comes to me, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” When we come, again and again, yearning for more today than yesterday, we can be confident in Jesus’ words, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”
So our greater hunger and thirst is satisfied as Jesus gives us access to more: “whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” This is true precisely as we hunger and thirst for more. Jesus will not allow our greater hunger and thirst to go unsatisfied (at least ultimately).
St Ignatius of Antioch touches on what I am describing. He speaks of the living water, which Jesus promises will flow within those thirsty souls who come to him to drink. This living water quenches. Yet Ignatius links this satisfaction with a yearning for more. He says, “My desire for this world has been crucified and there is no fire in me burning for material things, but only water living and speaking in me, speaking from within, ‘Come to the Father.’” We have here a water that satisfies, yet draws one further: “Come to the Father.” A water that quenches, yet makes one thirst for more: “Come to the Father.”
In the Gospel of John, a few verses after our passage today, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.” The Father draws us to himself, draws us to his bosom where the Son abides (according to the Prologue). Part of how the Father draws us is our desire for the Bread of Life. Our Eucharist today, while satisfying our hunger, makes us hunger for more. It beckons us deeper into the abode of the Father. So as we find satisfaction, we also find a deeper yearning, something speaking from within, “Come to the Father.”