Fr. Francis Scaria
Hungry beggar that I am, I want to tell every other hungry beggar where I found food. In Jn 6:26, Jesus tells the people who were looking for him, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life”. He was, in fact, telling them to care for the soul rather than the body. Man is made up of body and soul. He needs nourishment for both body and soul. Most of us take care of the needs of the body. We give time to clean our body, to clothe and do a lot of make-up. We spend money for the wellbeing of our body. When we get sick we go to the best possible doctor for treatment. But, how much do we care about our soul?
Mk 6:34 tells us that Jesus “saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things”. He recognised that their souls were malnourished and he began to serve them food for their souls by teaching them. In the following verses we also find that Jesus recognised their physical malnourishment and multiplied bread for them. Before he healed those who were physically unwell, he whispered to them, “your sins are forgiven”. His prime concern was for the soul which is everlasting. To the rich fool who cared only for his body and neglected his soul, God says, “You fool! This very night your soul is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20) When he is tempted by the devil who saw him physically hungry, Jesus makes it clear to him that his priority is to feed his soul with “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).
On many occasions Jesus challenged his listeners to nourish their souls first. Martha who cared for the body had a complaint against her sister Mary who cared for the soul. Jesus told Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). Prophet Jeremiah says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer 15:16).
According to a report of 2012 of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 48% of children in India are chronically malnourished. The worst among the States is Madhya Pradesh with its alarming 60% malnourished children. It is estimated that more than one third of world’s malnourished children live in India. It is hardly possible to have statistics of the spiritual malnourishment of our people. However, we can sense the spiritual malnourishment in ourselves and in our society.
When Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father “Give us this day our daily bread” it has primarily to be about the spiritual food, as Jesus cares for the soul more than the body. Because we are all destined to inherit the imperishable (cf. 1 Cor 15:50-55).
The Samaritan woman at the well is a symbol of the fallacy of our world trying to quench the thirst of the flesh. However, she responded positively to Jesus’ words - “I am standing at the door, knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Rev. 3:20). She opened the door of her heart; Jesus had a spiritual meal with her so much so that the disciples were left to wonder, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat? (Jn 4:33)” The Samaritan woman “left her water jar and went back to the city,” for now her thirst was quenched at the ‘meal’ with Jesus. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35).
The angel of the Lord touched Elijah and said to him, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you”(1 Kgs 19:7). The following sentence reveals the secret of the spiritual nourishment. “He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kgs 19:8) where he met God. Whenever I am spiritually undernourished and malnourished, the journey of my life becomes too cumbersome for me! Lord, give us this day our daily bread!
MUSINGS : 1-25,