The Israelites grumbled about the lack of food in the desert. They remembered their fleshpots in Egypt, where they were captives. God provided them what they needed but:
It wasn’t what they expected.
After a while it wasn’t what they “wanted”.
He didn’t make it necessarily easy for them.
So what’s going on here?
Point #1: Journey
At the 2006 Commencement Exercises of the University of Pennsylvania, that famous Yale graduate and renown theological scholar, Jodie Foster once said:
The journey of life is neither straight nor level. At times you stand at one place and wonder if you are lost.But then you look behind at the events in your live and a pattern begins to develop. Then you turn around and look in front and a pathway that seems to make sense begins to appear.
God has a purpose for you. The purpose always involves you – blessing other people.God could bless them directly from the clouds. He chooses not to. He chooses to use the most favorite thing He has ever created: human beings.
Point #2: Purpose
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
In order to fulfill your purpose, you need skills. The skills do not come all at once; they unfold over time. As time goes on the challenges get harder, your call for leadership gets tougher, the skills required become more advanced, the training becomes more difficult.
You cannot go where you are supposed to bless and lead others because you’ve never been there before.
God accepts you where you are. But God will not let you stay there. A white belt does not = black belt. JV does not = varsity. He is going to move in your life and encourage you to grow, just like he did with the Hebrews.
So perhaps you’re experiencing the cross. It might not be that God is chastising you. It might be that He’s training you. There is really no other answer to the failures of our lives, the dropping away of opportunities, the inadequate economy, the terrible losses—no answer at all unless supporting hands make safe the falling and support it with tenderness. Maybe the careening earth, human affairs, everything that falls apart, all of it, every bit, has behind it something big and lovely trying to get itself born.
Point #3: Trust
As you mature in your spiritual life, God calls you out of your cozy comfort zone. Our tendency, just like the Hebrews, is to grumble and dig in our heels.
At moments like this, where is the needle on the trust meter? How is your trust in God when God calls you to new journeys in your spiritual life or your ministry or your job or your school or your vocation?
Also, trust is a muscle. It needs to be exercised and experienced again and again and again in the midst of challenging situations for it to be strong.
In the meantime, who is your “trust trainer?” You can’t do this alone and you are not meant to do this alone. Consider the following Scripture passages:
- Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “A threefold cord is not quickly broken. … And three people are even stronger.”
- Luke 10:1-23 – Jesus sent out the 72 disciples in pairs.
- Mark 6:7 – Jesus sent the 12 out 2 x 2
In the Old Testament, the roots of word “manna” is the phrase, “What is this?” This was the questions asked by the Hebrews when they say the dew-turned-into-flakes on the ground.
In the New Testament: the people asked the same thing. “What is this new bread of life?” When the answer from Jesus was, “Me! I am the answer of every need and desire that you ever had, and even more,” naturally the response was then – as it is now – “Ok, what does that look like? How is that going to work out?”
Pope Francis provides a Eucharistic answer reflecting on the Gospel of John 6:24-35. According to the Holy Father in the Eucharist we are we given something that keeps us from hardening our hearts and allows us to love someone else:
Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist is not only a model for the Christian life, but acts as the material – the food – to transform us interiorly. Every time that we participate in holy Mass and we are nourished by the body of Christ, the presence of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit acts in us, shaping our hearts, communicating interior attitudes to us that translate into behaviors according to the Gospel. Thanks to Jesus and to his Spirit, even our broken lives become ‘broken bread’ for our brothers.
It’s not easy. [Nevertheless,] we must love even someone who doesn’t love us, opposing evil with good, with pardon, with sharing, with welcome. … [In the Eucharist we are given] the creativity of charity, the capacity to give hope to the disheartened, to welcome the excluded.”. (CNA, Sunday Angelus on June 22, 2014)
And so Pope Francis summarizes John 6:24-35: So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
Audio version of the homily is here:
Anne Osdieck, “Praying Towards Sunday”
Anne Osdieck, “Discussion Questions”
John Foley S. J., “Spirituality of the Readings”