Sunday, 13 April 2008

A hillside seat

No other person has ever been able to provide for the needs of everyone, and nor shall such a one be found in the future unless it be Jesus Himself.
With loaves and fishes the superficial need for food was satisfied, and this added to the fascination of the crowd that followed Him. That need was superficial in that it was not urgent: nobody was starving. We are told that the people were hungry, but their hunger was not yet so great that they would return to their homes; they still hungered more for the experience of being part of the crowd in the presence of this man they had heard about and talked about, listened to, and had themselves seen doing amazing things. The physical hunger was overridden by their hunger for the experience: their enthusiasm for the charismatic presence of Jesus and their anticipation of further remarkable happenings. They had not followed Him into the countryside just to leave Him when they got hungry, and later to learn that they had missed the highlight of the day. Something similar may have already happened to some of them and they would not want to hear their friends repeating the same excited words, “Oh, you should have stayed ! You’ll never believe what happened !”

That same enthusiasm and apparent need for the feeling, the sensation, the experience, influences us today.
We can be so engrossed in something that we lose track of time, suddenly realizing that hours have passed unnoticed. We are ‘awakened’ by the phone ringing, by someone arriving home, by a sudden realization that it is getting dark, or that dawn is breaking. Though there are aspects of this which may be annoying and frustrating, as well as others which raise the possibility of unwelcome consequences, the blanketing effect is not only over the exterior and physical awareness – such as the passage of time and hunger – but also over any consciousness of what our deepest needs really are. Our hunger for the experience swamps us completely, leaving us not only without a sense of ongoing purpose and lacking a realization that we have come to a halt on our spiritual journey, but with a contrary belief that we have suddenly been lifted and carried forward along our path. We feel we have arrived somewhere; we are in Our Lord’s presence, and we think all we have to do is remain where we are, basking in expectation and enthusiasm, watching and waiting for what happens next. Surely He will provide for us; He will not let us go hungry.
We have, as it were, seated ourselves beside other spectators on a dusty hillside. We have set up camp among the five thousand hungry followers of Jesus. Having heard about Him, and having found ourselves drawn to Him, we have gone through the psychological turnstile and eagerly await the performance. We wonder what He will do next.

That for which He searches our hearts and minds, the deeper and greater need we each have buried within us, is obscured by our sensational and emotional excitement. Jesus is Jesus. He did things we could never dream of doing, but in confirming this truth within ourselves, we tend to blind ourselves with regard to those things of which we are in fact capable. We negate all hope of discovering and activating the gifts with which we have been endowed: the abilities we have been called to use for the benefit of our neighbours near and far, and for the furtherance of God’s will for all mankind.
In any self-assessment – unlikely to have resulted from a conscious decision – we will, in all probability, limit the scope of any perceived possibilities to a mere shadow of our true potential. Some will chase off to the opposite extreme, and they may be even less likely to find where they are meant to be. Hurrying in any direction is likely to be evidence of completely missing, or at least misinterpreting our guidance and spiritual instruction. Our sense of direction is confused and we are swamped again. We think we are ready to risk walking on water, but we are still on dry land: we did not even board the boat.

In His provision of food for the crowd Jesus showed how easily people in general can be satisfied by the availability of superficial satisfaction, the comfort of a physical need fulfilled quelling all conscious dissatisfaction with the barren wasteland that is their inner life. If some were conscious of anything beyond the free meal itself, the stunning reality for many would have been the provision of the food, whereas the truly miraculous was not this sign but the presence among them of the man who wrought it in their midst. The human body does not live long without being fed and watered, but the real food on offer that day was the word of God: the life-bringing words of Jesus. Ultimate truth pronounced by the Word of God Himself, incarnate and seated among them on a previously empty hillside. Eventually most will have wandered away without noticing or acknowledging this truth, content with having been there and with having had the experience.

In his ‘Ascent of Mount Carmel’ (II:VII), St John of The Cross writes of spiritual persons who ‘... think that it suffices to deny themselves worldly things without annihilating and purifying themselves of spiritual attachment.’ Our longing for the feelings, and our wallowing in emotions associated with spiritual experience are seductive examples of that attachment. Even more than the physical food, this distracts us from our journey and keeps us from hungering to do as Christ would have us do. As St John goes on to say, we ‘... seek only sweetness and delectable communion with God. This is not self-denial, and detachment of spirit, but spiritual gluttony.’


About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

hit counters
Cox Cable High Speed

St Blogs Parish Directory
Religion Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory Religion Blogs - Blog Top Sites - The internets fastest growing blog directory Religion and Spirituality Blog Directory See blogs and businesses for United Kingdom