Oratio, Episode 4

What are we searching for?

Lectionary Reading:

Psalm 51:1-12

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 6:24-35

Reflection:

I’m not sure how to answer that question for myself to be honest.

In the story of John 6, the crowds follow Jesus to the other side of the lake looking for something. Jesus says that they followed him not because they saw miraculous signs, but because their basic needs were met. But if I’m honest, I’m not sure why I show up for Jesus sometimes. Sometimes I can’t be sure why I make it to Church on any given Sunday, or why I pray my rosary most nights before bed.

Why I follow Jesus eludes me some days.

Jesus’ statement that he is The Bread of Life is the answer I want to give. But honestly following Jesus has still left me unsatisfied. Not because of anything Jesus has done or not done, but perhaps instead because I’m still looking for something else. Something else to fulfill the wild cravings in my soul.

These wild cravings have lead me to a place where I have been willing to literally starve myself, with the unhealthy thought process that somehow that will lead me to becoming more attractive and thus, more desirable. The desires for affection and intimacy and community are not sinful or problematic. The problem is that pattern of behavior that has been engrained in me for a decade now. Always working out. Never eating enough. My depression is heightened by my lack of eating. My lack of eating leads me into greater depression. For a long time I believed that the on-going physical exhaustion I experience often was just how my physiology was set up. Doctors found nothing wrong that they could point my chronic longing for nap time to. So I just assumed this is what life was and I pressed on.

The truth however, is that I have been starving. Starving myself now for about a decade. I still eat my cookies and donuts, and definitely over indulge on pumpkin pie come fall, but I will punish myself and deny myself food after. Sometimes multiple meals. At this point, I rarely feel hungry when I miss meals. It has become so a part of me that for a while I genuinely believed that I was just forgetting to eat.

But in the last month, as my summer seasonal depression hit, and my anxiety was leading me to spiral back into some dark and dangerous thoughts, the lack of consistent eating was amplifying the treachery of what was an already volatile emotional terrain.

A couple of dear souls in my life have been aware – in varying degrees of intensity – of the struggle I’ve been having with eating a consistent, healthy amount of food daily. They don’t know how their reminders to me to eat have literally saved my life this summer.

I wouldn’t have made it alone. We can never overcome our darkest hours, or shed light on the most sinister parts of our shadows on our own. We need one another.

Like the crowds, I’ve come to Jesus searching for something. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until just recently. I’ve come searching for the kind of affirmation that frees me from my bondage to the self-flagellation I’ve been putting myself through. I’ve come seeking sustenance that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

Jesus’ statement, “I am the bread of life” is a statement of welcome. Jesus is inviting us to participate in a feast that he is preparing in the very sight of our enemies, our addictions, our bondage, our darkness, and as he sets the table, Jesus declares his victory over and against all of the things that strip us of the abundant life that we were called to live. Jesus frees us so that we can feast and be free. Our enemies look on ravenous, desperate to take us away from the table that our dear Carpenter has built for us. They look on, but they don’t get to win. The one who has come to set us free, has declared us free indeed.

So we gather together, in whatever ways we can, to hold one another and lift one another up.

Come to Jesus, whether you know what you are searching for or not. Take part of the meal he has set for you. Allow him to nourish that parts of your life that have gone neglected.

Be well.

Michael