Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." 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." So they said to him, "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 him, "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." John 6:24-35
Addictions. We all have them. Society loves to judge the alcoholic, the drug addicted, the smokers, but individuals often fail to see the common addictions we all have.
You wake up and just can’t seem to start your day without a coffee. You ‘need’ the energy it gives.
You have a rough day at work and the first thing you do when you get home is lay on the sofa and turn on the tv. You crave the escape.
You hear about a loss of a loved one and you immediately dig into the ice cream tub. For some reason, it makes you feel better.
You feel bored or tired or stressed and you scroll through facebook. Five minutes turns into 10 minutes turns into an hour.
You feel frustrated at a family member or coworker and so you exercise. And exercise. And exercise some more.
You get in the car and feel the awkwardness of being alone and immediately turn on the radio to cover up the sound of silence.
You fear failure and so you throw yourself into work. 40 hours becomes 60 hours and your family can’t seem to get you off of your computer or phone.
Addictions don’t have to be unhealthy. We can become addicted to very healthy things. Food, work, and exercise are all good things. Doctors say even a glass of red wine can be good for your heart! But when we find ourselves continually turning to these addictions, even the healthy ones, instead of turning to God to feed us, our souls become unhealthy. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. (Richard J. Foster)
For many of us, we must allow a deficit to take place inside of our lives before we will allow God to fill that space. Fasting from our addictions helps us create this deficit so that we turn to God first.
Richard J. Foster in “Celebration of Discipline” speaks on this subject,
‘More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, “I humbled my soul with fasting” (Ps. 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us…
We are feeding on God and, just like the Israelites who were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous manna from heaven, so we are sustained by the word of God.’
Jesus reminds us that if we come to Him first, we will never be hungry. He is the food that gives us life. And yet, the minute we feel pain, exhaustion, frustration, we turn to our addictions instead. Sometimes we don’t even allow ourselves to get to the point of feeling anything at all. We self-medicate with our own addictions (tv, alcohol, internet, exercise, food, sleep, friends, busyness, etc.) so that we never feel pain, loneliness, depression, despair. And yet the only path to true spiritual and emotional health is to turn to Jesus first and allow the Bread of Life to feed us when we are empty and need a ‘fill up’. We may not be in the season of Lent, but we should still work to cut the chains of our controlling addictions. We can and should work to create space in our lives for a little bit of emptiness, an emptiness that we can trust God will fill and feed.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (John 6:33)