Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spiritual Poverty of the West vs. Material Poverty of the East

“In the West you have another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. This is far worse. People do not believe in God, do not pray. People do not care for each other. You have the poverty of people who are dissatisfied with what they have, who do not know how to suffer, who give in to despair. This poverty of heart is often more difficulty to relieve and to defeat. In the West you have many more broken homes, neglected children, and divorce on a huge scale.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 6,30-35): The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Today in Jesus' words we can see both the differentiation and counterpart existing between the Old and the New Testaments: the Old Testament was an expectation of the New Testament and in the New Testament, God's promises to the fathers of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. Thus, the manna the Israelis ate in the desert was not the authentic bread from Heaven, but an anticipated image of the true bread that God, our Father, has given us in the person of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to us as Saviour of the world. Moses begs for God to give the Israelis physical food; Jesus Christ, instead, has given Himself for us as that divine aliment yielding life.

«Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe you. What sign do you perform?» (Jn 6:30), the people ask unbelieving and irreverent. Do they perhaps consider meaningless the sign of the multiplication of the bread and fish Jesus had accomplished the previous day? Why did they want yesterday to proclaim Jesus as a king while today they do not want to believe him anymore? How often can the human heart change! St. Bernard of Clairvaux said: «It is so that these impious ones wander in a circle, longing after something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting that which alone can bring them to their desired end, not by exhaustion but by attainment». And so it happened that those people, engulfed by a materialistic vision, expected someone who would nourish them and would solve all their problems, but they did not want to believe; this is all they desired out of Jesus. Is not this the idea of he who is only interested in a comfortable religion, tailor-made and without any commitment?

Jesus becomes the Bread of Life by willingly surrendering his spirit to his Father in Heaven. It is not a symbol of defeat or giving up, rather, the sacrifice of one’s spirit is an act of supreme faith and love. That love is manifested in the form of forgiveness.

We are all constantly called to lift our own spirits to God by living through the Bread of Life, forgiving and loving each other as God does for us. Perhaps in doing so we can move beyond the various hungers and thirsts of the world, stepping ever closer to a life in solidarity with one another and Christ.

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