18th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15; Ephesians 4:17, 20–24; John 6:24–35

Is Something Missing?
There’s a hunger in all of us that only Jesus can fill.

Let’s begin by asking a rather unusual question.
Were you ever hungry for something,
but you didn’t know what?

For example,
did you ever go to the refrigerator, open the door,
look at everything on the shelves, and say,
“I’m hungry for something, but not for any of that”?

Or were you ever thirsty for something and didn’t know what it was? Again, did you ever go to the refrigerator,
open the door, look at everything on the shelves, and say,
“I’m thirsty for something, but not for any of that”?

Or put it still another way. do you have everything in life that’s important—a family, a job, and an income—but still feel something’s missing?

If our answer to those questions is yes,
then today’s Scripture readings could hold an important message for us. For they remind us of something that we often forget. It’s this:

There are two kinds of hunger in the world.

First, there’s a physical hunger, which only food can satisfy.
Second, there’s a spiritual hunger, which no food in the world can satisfy.

In other words, we can be rich and successful and still feel an incredible hunger inside us.

Let me illustrate with the true story of two people.

First there’s Tom Phillips. At the age of 40,
Tom was the president of the largest company in the state of Massachusetts. He had a Mercedes, a beautiful home,
a lovely family.

but Tom Phillips was not happy. In fact, he was downright unhappy. Something was missing from his life,
but he didn’t know what it was.

Then one night, during a business trip to New York,
something happened to him. Tom Phillips had a religious experience that changed him forever. Speaking of that experience, he said:

“I saw what was missing [from my life].”
It was Jesus Christ. “I hadn’t ever . . .
turned my life over to him.”

And that night Tom did just that.
And that night Tom’s life changed in a way that brought him a happiness he never dreamed existed.

That brings us to the second man. His name is Charles Colson. He too was a successful man. In his own words,
he had “an office next to the president of the United States,
a six-figure income, a yacht, a limousine, and a chauffeur.”

But he too was an unhappy man. In his own words,
he had a “gnawing hollowness” deep inside him.
Something was missing from his life, but he didn’t know what it was.

Then one August night in 1973, Tom Phillips, the first man we talked about, told Charles Colson about his conversion.

And the more Colson listened, the more he became convinced
that Tom Phillips had put his finger on what was causing the “gnawing hollowness” deep inside him.

He too was hungering for something. And now,
for the first time in his life, he had an insight into what it was.

Charles Colson left the Phillips home that night knowing exactly what he must do.

He hadn’t driven 100 yards from the house when he pulled up alongside the road and began to cry so loudly that he was afraid the Phillips family might hear him.

Describing what happened next, Colson said:
“I prayed my first real prayer.” It was like this:

“God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try!
I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow
I want to give myself to you.”

He then added: “I didn’t know how to say more,
so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.”

To make a long story short, that was the beginning of a religious conversion that surprised not only the White House staff but also the entire country.

The so-called “hatchet man” of the Nixon administration,
who once supposedly boasted that he would “run over his own grandmother to reelect the president,” underwent a dramatic religious conversion.

The Los Angeles Times gave it this headline:
“ ‘Tough guy’ Colson has turned religious.”
The New York Times gave it this headline:
“Colson has ‘found religion.’ ”

To this day colson crisscrosses the country preaching the Gospel wherever he can, especially in prisons and on college campuses.

This brings us back to our original question. Have you ever hungered for something deep inside you and didn’t know what? Have you ever thirsted for something deep inside you and didn’t know what?

If our answer to those two questions is yes, then we’ll want to take seriously today’s Scripture readings. For they contain an important message for us. Jesus himself sums up that message in these words:

“I am the bread of life. . . .
Those who come to me will never be hungry;
those who believe in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
The message in today’s Scripture readings is simply this:
There’s a deep-down hunger and thirst in all of us that only Jesus can fill.

This message has brought new meaning to millions of lives.
And it can bring new meaning to our lives too, if we but let it.

Let’s close by repeating the prayer that Charles Colson prayed in his parked car on the unforgettable August night in 1973:

“God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try!
I’m not much the way I am now,  but somehow I want to give myself to you.

“Take me! Take me! Take me!”

Series II
18th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15; Ephesians 4:17, 20–24; John 6:24–35

Hunger of the Heart
There’s a hunger and a thirst in the human heart that only Jesus can fill.

There was a famous Broadway musical in the 1950s called Damn Yankees. It was later made into a popular movie.

The leading character was a middle-aged man named Joe Boyd. From the time he was a little kid,
Joe dreamed of becoming a famous baseball player.

Now Joe’s dreaming days are over, and he knows it.
Yet he continues to dream.

Then one night something strange happens. A man named Mr. Applegate walks into Joe’s life. He tells Joe that he has the power to still make Joe’s dream come true.

He can turn Joe Boyd, the middle-aged man, into Joe Hardy, a 22-year-old star outfielder for the Washington Senators.
Back in the 1950s, Washington was a team in the American League.

Then comes the terrific part. Joe can not only star for the Senators but also lead them to a pennant over the world-famous New York Yankees.

The question in Joe’s mind—and in every moviegoer’s mind—is, Who is this mysterious Mr. Applegate?
Well, as you may have guessed, he is the devil in human form.

It’s then that Joe learns that there’s one catch to all this.
In exchange for stardom he must sell his soul to the devil.

Well, Joe still finds the offer impossible to refuse. So he agrees to it on one condition: that he can back out of the agreement,
if he wishes, just before the Senators cinch the pennant race.
The devil figures that once Joe gets that far, he’ll never back out, so he agrees.

And so Joe writes a short note, kisses his sleeping wife
good-bye, and leaves home to begin his new life. It’s at this point that the excitement begins.

Joe joins the Senators as a rookie and becomes an overnight sensation. In a matter of weeks he becomes the toast of Washington, D.C.

Fans cheer him wildly. Kids idolize him, teenage girls worship him, and old people think of him as the son or grandson they’ve always wanted to have.

It’s an unbelievable existence, and Joe relishes every moment of it. He never dreamed that life could be so sweet. He never dreamed that the world could be so beautiful.

But as the movie progresses, something unexpected happens to Joe. Slowly, all the fame and fortune begin to grow stale. Joe finds himself staring at the wall at night. Deep down inside him there’s a hollow spot that fame and fortune won’t fill. And Joe doesn’t know why.

Finally, the deadline date with the devil arrives. The prospects of a pennant and a World Series are in the air. It is then,
after much soul-searching, that Joe does what he never dreamed he’d do. He cancels his deal with the devil.

Perhaps the reason is that way back in Joe’s mind he hears the echo of Jesus’ words: “Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated?” Luke 9:25

Whatever the reason, Joe disappears from the baseball world
as mysteriously as he appeared.

A few days later he turns up at his home again. He kisses his wife and goes back to being middle-aged Joe Boyd,
who once dreamed of being a baseball star.

That story may remind older sports fans of the true story of Jack Dempsey. The night after winning the heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard, Jack woke up in his hotel room. It was two o’clock in the morning. Suddenly, he felt terribly empty inside. He said later, and I quote,
“Success didn’t taste the way I thought it would. I’d won a world’s championship. So what?’’

The fictional Joe Boyd and the real Jack Dempsey
would agree 100 percent with what Jesus says to the crowd in today’s gospel:

“Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. . . . I am the bread of life. . . .
Those who come to me will never be hungry;
 those who believe in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:27, 35

What Jesus is saying,
what Joe Boyd experienced in the movie,
and what Jack Dempsey experienced in real life,
can be summed up in a single sentence:
The human heart has a hunger and a thirst that nothing on earth can satisfy.

It’s a lesson that we must learn if we are ever to find true happiness. Fame and fortune promise to fill the void in the human heart. But in the end they leave it more hungry and more thirsty than it was before.

Asuccessful high school teacher once said:
“There’s nothing more beautiful than watching young people preparing to go off to college to begin an exciting new life.
And that’s the way it should be. It’s an exciting time for them.
The world is out there, just waiting for them to enjoy everything it has to offer.

“But the day will come when those same young people will discover that what the world has to offer will leave them more hungry and more thirsty than they were before.

“The day will come when they will discover the truth of Jesus’ words:

“Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. . . .
I am the bread of life. . . .
Those who come to me will never be hungry;
those who believe in me will never be thirsty.”

In a few minutes we will share together the Bread of Life.
And as we do, let’s ask for the grace never to forget the great truth that Jesus teaches in today’s gospel.


Let’s pray for the grace never to forget the great truth of what Joe Boyd discovered in the movie and Jack Dempsey

discovered in real life: that the food and drink of this world
can never satisfy the hunger and thirst of the human heart.

Let’s pray for the grace never to forget the great truth that our hearts were made for God and they will not rest until they rest in God.

For to forget this truth is to lose sight of one of the most important truths that Jesus ever taught.

Series III
18th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15; Ephesians 4:17, 20–24; John 6:24–35

Coming home
“Our hearts have a God-shaped hole in them that only God can fill.”

Iam the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “Those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Sometime ago, the Wall Street Journal carried an article
about the number of professionals who have returned to church after being separated from it for a while. Lisa Miller, “Can You Go Back? in the Wall Street Journal (April 10, 1998)

A case in point is Kenny. The Journal describes him this way:


He’s got a job with a top brokerage firm . . .
a $600,000 bachelor pad and a blue Jaguar with vanity plates. . .

But last year, he found himself saying, “Here I am forty-five years old, and . . . my life is empty.”

So what did Kenny do? He went back to church.

The Wall Street Journal commented that in the past, people like Kenny got serious about a relationship with God only at some critical moment: a death in the family, a loss of a job, and so on.

Now successful people are breaking the mold and returning to their faith.

“They’re dissatisfied,” says the Rev. Steve Stroope. . . .
“They’ve landed on the moon and they’re saying, ‘Is this all there is?’ ”

Interestingly, the spiritual emptiness that people like Kenny experience does not always take them straight back to church.

Frequently they turn to such things as self-help books, volunteer programs, or evening courses in philosophy.

The Wall Street Journal says that one reason for choosing that path is that in “certain professional circles” going to church is frowned upon.

Our friend Kenny said that he resisted his first impulse
to return to the Catholic Church. Now he’s a regular at Sunday Mass, but he keeps that part of his life to himself in conversations at work.
He’s afraid that he will be written off as a “Jesus freak”
or something equally unpopular in the eyes of his colleagues

Another successful Hollywood professional, Marykay,
left her Catholic faith behind when she left home.

Years of 80-hour workweeks brought her to the presidency of a Hollywood production company.

Weekends found her winging to some luxury resort on a private jet. It was an exciting life.

Then one day a profound emptiness set in. In spite of her success and excitement, something important was missing. She felt a deep spiritual hunger.

To address this spiritual hunger, she turned to New Age lectures and took courses in Buddhism and biblical history
at the University of California. But her emptiness
and the hunger persisted. But her emptiness and the hunger persisted.

Finally, she decided to return “home.” She decided to go back to her Catholic faith that she had left behind when she left home. Commenting on her return, she said:

“I’m going to sound nuts,” she says,
but it wasn’t until she asked God to forgive her for being away that she was comfortable going back to church again.
“I had to say, ‘Please take me back. Please help me.’ ”
The stories of Kenny and Marykay illustrate that the spiritual hunger that we all feel from time to time is a hunger for God.

It is the same inner hunger and thirst that people have experienced since the beginning of time.

Sixteen centuries ago, Saint Augustine explained it this way:
“Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest until they rest in God.”

A later writer put it more poetically, saying,
“Our hearts have a God-shaped hole in them that only God can fill.”

This leads us to the great tragedy of modern times.
It is this:

We are trying to fill the God-hole in our hearts with something other than God.

Years ago the British writer Frank Sheed talked about this tragedy in his book called Theology and Sanity.

He wrote the human heart has a deep spiritual hunger.
But instead of helping people satisfy this spiritual hunger in a spiritual way, we give people material things.

We try to distract people from what is troubling them,
the same way that we try to distract a crying baby by giving it candy and by making funny faces at it.
Trying to satisfy a spiritual hunger or thirst with material food or drink is like trying to satisfy a physical thirst with salt water. The more we drink, the thirstier we get.

This brings us to the good news contained in today’s Gospel.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, can satisfy the hunger in our hearts.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, can fill the void in our lives.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Son of God, come into the world to fill the God-hole in our hearts.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Prince of Peace,
come into our world to calm the restlessness in our hearts.

For Jesus, and Jesus alone, said:

“I am the bread of life. . . .
Those who come to me will never be hungry;
those who believe in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

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