This one time I had gone to visit my mother while she was teaching 2nd grade, and her principal saw me come into the school and said “you’re just the priest I was looking for.” That was a strange for a few reasons – I was just popping into say hi to my mother; it was a public school; and the principal was Jewish – so how could I not be stopped in my tracks with a greeting like that? Anyway, she went back to her office and emerged with this small statue of St. Joseph and said “I’ve been having a lot of difficulties selling my house – so I was told I need to get this statue and burry him or something… is that right?” I remember standing in that main office just kind of shocked for the moment. Where do I start – Uhm NO??? I knew this wasn’t the time to get into a deep theological discussion so I tried a quick and simple tactic saying did she think a good, devout, righteous Jewish man like St. Joseph would appreciate being shoved in the ground and treated as a real estate agent? Explaining that this was warping a Catholic devotion into an Italian superstition. Completely unfazed, her response was “but does it work?” as her secretary who was also Italian chimed in to say “oh yes… it absolutely does.”
It’s not uncommon for us to fall into that type of posture in our relationship with God. What do we need to do, to get what we want? We might not be that direct about it, but if we dig a bit deeper into our prayer intentions, we might find that it happens a lot. That’s what we see in today’s Gospel. This crowd that’s coming to Jesus, they had just experienced the miracle where he took 5 loaves and a couple of fish and fed thousands of people. It’s the next day, so not much of a surprise, they’re hungry again. So thats why they went looking for Him. They don’t come right out and ask “Hey Jesus what’s for breakfast?” – but Jesus knows that’s what they’re looking for.
Jesus also knows that this is an important moment for the people in the crowds: I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. He’s trying to get them to move past the miracle and see what that miracle was pointing to. Yes, yesterday’s loaves and fishes were amazing. Yes that defied their wildest expectations. But that was yesterday. Is this going to be just a “what have you done for me lately?” relationship where Jesus is treated like a magician constantly performing feats for crowds to keep their attention and interest. Or do they see this as a sign – a sign that Jesus fed them because he loved them and cared for them. A sign that Jesus saw their need and was attentive to it. That was the message behind the miracle. It’s not that he doesn’t care for the temporal, real time wants and needs – He just proved that He did. But now Jesus is trying to get them to move their thoughts, move their attention away from their stomachs to their hearts.
Yes the loaves and fish were great – just like the wine at Cana was pretty awesome as well. But Jesus, is interested in deeper needs, more urgent hungers – which is going to be the theme and focus of the Gospel readings this whole week as we hear what’s called “the Bread of Life discourse.” Today we start this reflection with: do we go to God for what we want – are we fixated on our lists of issues, problems and anxieties so much that we’re just sharing a “to do” list with Him or are we seeing the love, the care of our loving triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit and go to Him asking Him what He wants? He wants to (and does) supply our “daily bread” but that is to make us want to long for the bread that sustains us for eternity. May we not get lost in our worries and relegate God to our worries about where the next meal, whether I can sell my house or not that we miss the God who created us, and wants us to experience fullness of life now and for all eternity.