I was driving around with a priest friend of mine a few years ago in the city of Beaverton where he has a cottage, and a semi-truck passed us by. On this truck was written: “Yesterday’s meals on wheels”! I could not make sense of that. So, I asked him what it meant. Instead of telling me right away, he broke out in laughter. At last, he explained to me that it was the truck that drained septic tanks which contained … you know the rest. Indeed, yesterday’s meals are on wheels to a dumping ground.
That message on the truck summarizes our life in this world. Everything changes; everything grows and dies; everything blooms, withers, and dies. We also grow through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, to old age and death. Everything around us changes: houses, cities, businesses, weather, etc. An earliest Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that “you cannot step into the same river twice” because as soon as you step into the river, the flowing river washes it away. And so is human life.
But behind all the impermanence that surrounds us, there remains the enduring hunger of the soul – the hunger for deep love, for peace, for connectedness with God and with others, the hunger for transformation and meaning, the desire to shake off the self-imposed yokes of unrealistic expectations and live a life based on what really matters; the desire to live simply in order to simply live, instead of struggling to merely survive. These hungers are the same: it is our hunger for God, and only God can satisfy it.
In the gospel this weekend, Jesus gently cautions us against working for the food that perishes, but to work for the food that endures to eternal life, and which only He can give us (Jn. 6.27). This food is Jesus Christ Himself, for in Him all the goodness we seek is found. He is our peace (Eph. 2.15), our joy, our true security and our anchor in the midst of the changes we experience. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, not merely that we receive Him as an obligation but that we may fall in love with him.
Just think of the enormous energy we put into keeping ourselves eternally young and sexy, seeking to be famous and popular, wanting to belong to a group at all costs, and seeking to be important, etc. Yet, it would seem, that whenever we realize any of these desires, we spend even more energy trying to keep up with them. Inasmuch as these things are important, they do not constitute the essence of who and what we are. That is why the pressure created by these pursuits leads us to depression and uptight living. In all this, we are fighting a lost battle against the truth that all things and persons quickly change. Today’s meal will be on wheels tomorrow!
The Good News is that the suffering we experience in this fight against change gradually leads us to the deepest hunger of the soul – the hunger for God’s love and peace, the hunger for our original connection with God. It is often through the pain of disillusionment that we come to realize Jesus is truly the food that we need; that the journey of the soul in love of God is the only worthwhile journey of any human being. Carl Jung once said: “the telling question in every person’s life is their relationship to the Infinite.”
Which “food” have you been spending energy on? Does this “food” nourish or destroy you? Try this week to answer these soul-searching questions. His grace will guide you.