Greetings, SBT Readers!
Anyone who is familiar with dream interpretation knows that dreams re-occur when we don't get the message the first time.
Sometimes, dream images come back to haunt us, appearing in similar dream narratives; or sometimes the symbols undergo a metamorphosis, manifesting in dreams with similar thematic content. Either way, such dreams persist until we "get the message"; in other words, until we not only understand the message but act upon it -- perhaps reaching out to a friend, perhaps adjusting our attitudes and expectations, perhaps modifying our behaviors...
Covid-19 is a bit like a re-occurring nightmare: it came, bringing devastation to the world, and now, just when we imagined life was returning to normal, it is back -- but only more virulent! Whereas it might have taken 15 minutes to be infected by the "original" Covid-19, now it takes a matter of seconds to be sickened by the Delta variant -- and with far more lethal results. Even in countries with a high percentage of vaccine-compliance, hospitals are overwhelmed while essential medical supplies such as oxygen are running out. Moreover, the personal and economic fallout of the pandemic continues to worsen as countries face food shortages, rising unemployment, evictions, the inability to deliver goods. Already, consumers are discovering they will have to wait for that new bicycle, car or furniture, and that replacement parts are simply unavailable. Pork, chicken, corn, flour and yeast are just some of the foods that are presently in short supply because of the pandemic, and forecasters predict another run on toilet paper.
So what message did we miss? One doesn't have to be a Jungian analyst to know the answer. Sadly, human selfishness is at the root of our disease: those who refused to take precautions or, if they could, to be vaccinated have endangered everyone around them; "anti-vaxxers" who spread fear and misinformation have increased vaccine non-compliance; countries that hoarded vaccines while other nations suffered from "vaccine insecurity" have put the whole world at risk...
Yes, the Covid-nightmare has not yet run its course; it will be with us as long as we place our own "wants" before the world's "needs."
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Hunger is the experience of want, the lack of something that we perceive to be essential. While all of us hunger to be loved, the basic physical hunger, of course, is food. Years ago, as "mewling and puking" infants (thanks, Shakespeare!), we let our parents or other caregivers know when our bellies were empty; our cries awakened them to our need and therefore assisted in our very survival. As we grew, this hunger expanded. Food remained a necessity, but we also began to yearn for toys, for friends, for trips to the zoo, the beach, or to some amusement park. Later, as we lost our childhood innocence, we began to crave recognition, success, winning, having more, being "top," and "standing out" on the stage of life. Then, around mid-life, after experiencing loss and disappointment, most of us began to hunger for meaning and purpose.
Our hungers drive us, sometimes to desperation. When people are starving, some may steal to survive while others may accept employment that is dangerous or unhealthy. To feed their families, some individuals seek better options in other countries, crossing oceans or deserts in their heart-breaking quest for a better life. Those who imagine that happiness is to be found in "things" may become workaholics, or resort to gambling or spending beyond their means. Similarly, those who aspire to greatness can become ruthlessly competitive, never resting until they achieve their goals or beat that world record!
A hungry heart that looks for material solutions is never satisfied. Just as hungry bellies experience a permanent ache, becoming distended by emptiness, so the hungry heart knows no relief: things crumble and decay; relationships fracture; technology becomes outdated; the new car gets "dinged"; the dream vacation comes to an end...
No doubt the crowd in today's Gospel showed up because mere bread was not enough for them. Having filled their stomachs, they still experienced a core emptiness, the sense that something was missing that would give meaning to their lives. The fact that they went in search of Jesus suggests that they looked to him for answers-- or, perhaps, for more bread. But they received more than they bargained for: Jesus quickly challenged their motives, distinguishing between the bread which satisfies physical hunger ("manna") and the "true" bread which is life for the world. In words reminiscent of his earlier dialogue with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:12-26), he identified
with the "Bread of Life," the only bread that would satisfy the ache of their souls. Sadly, while they had assumed Jesus had the answers, the people were reluctant to believe that he was the answer!