Food, Desire and Satisfaction – How Christ shows his love through the Eucharist
Food tends to be one of the central points of reference in our lives. We always are thinking about the next meal. We remember good meals. We all have our favorite dishes, maybe even a dish we feel really good about preparing for others.
So often, when we want to get to know somebody better or understand their point of view, we can sit down together to a meal.
Food is a place of encounter between God and man. Every time we eat, we can remember God. This is why we bless the table before sitting down to eat.
Since food is so common in our everyday lives, Jesus uses it to explain spiritual realities. That is what happens during his discourse on the Bread of Life in John 6. “What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1392)
Christ compares spiritual food to material food, which is more familiar to us. “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” (Jn. 6:24)
The best ingredient for any recipe is hunger. This is true for spiritual realities as well. Perhaps today’s apparent apathy towards religion comes from too much self-satisfaction. People think they no longer need God. They live as if God does not exist. (etsi Deus non daretur – Grotius) In the Gospel, Jesus tries continually to awaken interest in his audience so they can appreciate the things of God.
The Gospel passage begins with the people looking for Jesus: “when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.” (Jn. 6:24) Jesus builds on this interest to create true spiritual hunger. The words of the crowd: “Lord, give us this bread always,” (Jn. 6:34) echo the words of the Samaritan Woman when she says, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (Jn. 4:15)
It is in this sense that we can understand St. Augustine’s phrase: “Amor meus, pondus meum.” (My weight is my love; by it am I borne whithersoever I am borne). (St. Augustine, Confessions, XIII.9)
Man’s desire for God leads him to encounter God truly and deeply. God promises to take care of his people and feed them until they are satisfied. “They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture.” (Is. 49:9)
The Psalms recall how God “rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.” (Ps. 78:24-25)
Christ reveals to the people there at the lake that he is the bread of life who can satisfy them. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35)
God wants us to be truly happy. This is why he desired to remain with us through the centuries in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus.” (CCC 1391)
It is precisely the great value of the Eucharist that makes it necessary for us to protect it. We would refuse no one a handshake. Well, now in the times of the pandemic, maybe we would. But we are able to speak to anybody. But the Eucharist is something much different, deep to the core of our faith. We cannot give the Eucharist indiscriminately. The bishops are debating now what guidelines to use to determine its reception by politicians. This is not weaponizing the Eucharist but rather defending it. We should pray for unity in the Church and grow in our own reverence and love for the Eucharist.
 Augustine of Hippo. (1886). The Confessions of St. Augustin. In P. Schaff (Ed.), J. G. Pilkington (Trans.), The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work (Vol. 1, p. 193). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.