It started in a desert.
After weeks of fasting, stripping down to spiritual and physical emptiness, Jesus is tempted to use his divinity to serve his hunger. (Matthew 4)
“If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
(As if he would use his power for such a cheap trick!)
“He replied: ‘It is written that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”
To listen ardently for every word God speaks to us: this is what we hunger for but are mostly unaware and untaught to realize. It takes time, effort and grace to realize that only God can satisfy our needs. The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want!
The ancient Jews, rescued from slavery in Egypt, were led grumbling and ungratefully into a harsh desert. They even preferred the false comfort of three squares a day to what Moses offered. Their Egyptian rulers were tyrants, but at least they had been fed. Now, it seemed, they would surely not survive this trek to an uncertain Promised Land.
But God showed his mercy by impossibly sending meat and bread to these former slaves. And even more miraculously, he sent them water from a rock.
Jesus used the power of these images some time later in his ministry, as he taught about the Kingdom. By this time, every word from his mouth could have filled them with the richest banquet. All they had to do was open their mouths to receive it. If only they – or we – could be like squawking nestlings, screaming to be fed this food!
Jesus took pity on the crowds who were lost, like sheep without a shepherd. He intimately knew their bodily and spiritual hunger, and showed them his desire to feed them, even more wonderfully than their ancestors had been.
He tells us it is not Moses, teacher of the Law, who can give us this perfect food. No, it is himself, the very Word of God, who gives us, through Love, his own self, his own sacrifice. He gives us not just the temporary life that the Law gives, but eternal life through the perfect Love he teaches and exemplifies.
All we need to do is to desire and accept this food, this Word. God does all the rest.