ARE YOU SATISFIED? Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Made Known in the Breaking of the Bread - Pleasant Grove United Methodist  Church

During my minor seminary days, one of my classmates was so attached to food that we call him “cibus,” which is the Latin word for food; but that is one part of the story. The other side is that he was never satisfied no matter the quantity of food you give him.

Generally, there seems to be something about our human disposition that makes us insatiable and desire to have more. Oliver Goldsmith says, “People seek within a short span of life to satisfy a thousand desires, each of which is insatiable.” Is there any way we can truly have enough in life; are you satisfied? Keep this question in your mind as we go!

The Gospel of John (6:1-15) tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ fed five the thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish; consequently, they had enough with leftovers that filled twelve wicker baskets. In the Gospel of John (6:24-35), we hear what happened the day after the miracle of the multiplication. The people searched for Jesus and his disciples across the sea to Capernaum; you can guess why they searched for him.

When they saw Jesus, they marveled at when and how he came to that side of the sea because he did not enter the boat with his disciples after the miraculous meal. Of course, they did not know that he walked on the lake in the night. Anyway, Jesus understood why they were searching for him; So, he said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw the signs but because you ate the loaves and you were filled.”

Our Lord goes further to instruct them not to work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which he gives. As the conversation continued, the people asked for a sign to enable them to believe him; in fact, they asked him, “what can you do?” They pretend to have forgotten the miracle of the loaves and fish.

Do we not often ask God the same question, “what can you do?” in our desperate search for answers. Or like the people of Israel murmuring and complaining about a temporary need when God had save them from greater predicament (Ex. 16:24, 12-15).

The people were heading somewhere, so they referred to the meal of manna their ancestors had in the desert through Moses. But Moses did not give them the bread Jesus corrected; rather, it is the Father that shows the true bread that gives life from heaven. So, instantly, they asked Jesus to provide them with the bread always. But he replies and says: “I am the true bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  

The Sign and the Signified: Notice that Jesus did not call the feeding of the five thousand a miracle; rather, he calls it a sign that functionally points to a reality other than itself. So, the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish was not a close-ended event but a pointer to another reality, and that is Jesus Christ, the true bread that is broken and shared to feed a multitude, that is, every one of us.

Temporary Satisfaction Vs. Eternal Satisfaction: In the narrative, Jesus gave an important instruction that we should take seriously. He says, “do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life. So the quick lesson here is that food can have temporary or lasting satisfying capacity.

The greater focus of our daily struggle in life indeed is to make ends meet. That explains why people work “nine to five” and beyond to satisfy their physical needs. Jesus is trying to tell us that we may be so consumed by the desire to work for our bodily wants that we forget our spiritual needs. We see this happening in the disposition of the crowd. They spent the entire day searching for Jesus to have more bread to satisfy their physical desire neglecting the more important component.

Carnality Vs. Spirituality

This brings us to the distinction between carnality and spirituality. The carnal nature pertains to the flesh, and its desires are overwhelming. Therefore, St. Paul warned the Galatians: “live by the Spirit and do not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). Writing to the Romans, St. Paul further says that those who live according to the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

One discovery about the desire of the flesh is that it is never satisfied. Here we see the baseline of greed and avarice in life. The carnally minded individual will never get enough. In contrast, Jesus tells us that they are blessed who hunger and thirst for righteousness as they would be satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

The five loaves of bread and two fish came from a generous child in the crowd, but the true bread comes from our gracious Father in heaven. The people ate and had enough for that day, but the next day, they were hungry. In contrast, the bread of heaven gives eternal satisfaction. The multitude ate the food for the stomach, but Jesus promises the food that nourishes the soul.

Moving Forward: Are You Satisfied?

What you seek after in life determines the level of satisfaction you get. Many people go through life depressed and frustrated because they run after things that would never give them enough. It could be a job that pays money but pulls away joy. It could be a relationship that turns out to be toxic; and it could also be a worldly standard that makes you lose your worthwhile standing with God.

What are you seeking after in life, and what satisfying value would you get from it? Jesus asked in the Gospel of Mark (8:36), “what would it profit a man to have gained to the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul.” For this reason, he encourages us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and other things would become ours (Matt. 6:33).

As we continue our faith journey, let us continually remind ourselves in our daily struggle for daily bread that man shall not live by bread alone because it will never satisfy us. Rather, let us open our hearts to God, whose unfailing word and presence would satisfy our longing soul and fill us with good things (Ps. 107:9).

Fr. Bonnie.

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