Greetings, SBT Readers!
What kind of a world are we leaving future generations? Between climate change, the worsening pandemic, natural disasters and the rise of totalitarianism, it seems that we have failed egregiously in improving the quality of life for most of the world's citizens; in fact, we have put Earth on course for planetary disaster. Human selfishness is at the root of most of our problems. We consume the world's resources with no regard for consequences; we turn our backs on the poor, the stateless, the oppressed, leaving them defenseless; we allow violence to go unchecked, watching as our cities turn into killing fields. We not only lack the political will to bring about change, but we lack the spiritual will -- the ability to imagine a different kind of society and, with God's help, to dream it into reality.
The great enemies of spiritual awareness are complacency and indifference -- when will we wake up?
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is useless.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life,
but some of you do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said,
“It is for this reason I told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted by my Father.”
As a result, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe
that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jn 6: 60-69
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." This much-quoted saying usually attributed to Teilhard de Chardin resonates with Jesus' discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn 6:22-71). Many people in the crowd were present because their human hungers had been satiated or because they could see ways of capitalizing on Jesus' miraculous powers -- they could crown him king, use him to defeat the Romans, share in his power, gain status, have him multiply their assets, make him heal their maladies, put him on display... In other words, they saw Jesus as a commodity they could consume, someone who would enhance their human experience, making their lives comfortable; at the same time, something in them came to life in his company. They connected with "soul" -- albeit, briefly-- but, in the long run, were more interested in their bellies than in growing spiritually. Jesus himself called them on this: "You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled" (Jn 6:26). He also made it clear that he was offering them a different kind of Bread --"food that endures for eternal life" (Jn 6:27). Still, the crowd could only respond on a literal level, hungry for anything that would feed their ambitions or put them at a material advantage. Had they been listening from a spiritual perspective, they would have understood that Jesus was offering "Bread" that was both eternal and incorruptible-- Bread that would allow them to live as spiritual beings without human cravings...
Our cravings reinforce our human nature, usually bringing out the worst in us. The "bread" to which we turn for comfort never satisfies the hungry heart but always leaves us wanting more-- more things, more experiences, more success, more fame, more wealth, more recognition, more popularity... It is as though we have a "bottomless pit" inside ourselves and the more we cater to it, the more it demands. Instead of living as spiritual beings, we live out of our baser instincts and these, in turn, drive us to jealousy, greed, competitiveness, dishonesty, lies, addictions and every combination of the Seven Deadly Sins. On the surface, we may seem to be thriving, but we can never be happy because we always want "MORE"! In fact, the worst thing we can do is hoard what we have as we become as rotten as moldy bread!
The alternative, of course, is to seek "Living Bread" -- the life of the Spirit that will increase our capacity for spiritual vision, helping us grow in mindfulness, gratitude, peace, compassion, creativity, truthfulness, simplicity, generosity -- and, of course, in love of God, self and neighbor! This is the Bread that Jesus offers us -- the only Bread that will sustain us on the journey of life in this world so that we can evolve spiritually. We are, indeed, what we eat!