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September 22nd, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Second Homily: Blessed Are You Who Hunger

I wonder – have you ever been really hungry? Starving? I have felt that way. But I have always been able to look forward to a nice meal. I can relate to Esau in a way. Remember him? He was so hungry he gave away his birthright for a pot of stew.  It is the same with me. When I’m hungry don’t get in between me and that drumstick!

But I’ve never been hungry day after day. I understand that chronic hunger not only saps your bodily energy but that it saps your spirit. When you’re always hungry life becomes straightforward. Find food. But many people cannot find food. Life becomes a matter of waiting, waiting until you have no more reserves of energy left, and you die.

People who are trapped in hunger and poverty have often exhausted all hope in the powers of this world. They are more inclined in their desperation to look to God and cry out to Him. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor and hungry, and by that I mean the people on the margins, people generally ignored in the world. As Eric Clapton sang, “Nobody loves me when I’m down and out.” Jesus does.

Many of the people on that hillside were not only sick or suffering from various diseases, but were also poor and hungry. There was no welfare program then, no health insurance, and despite efforts in the Old Testament to teach the contrary there remained a prevailing view that if you were suffering you must have done something to tick off God.

There is a place when physical hunger becomes spiritual hunger, and there is a place where spiritual hunger feels a lot like physical hunger. In both there is desperation, and in both the needy person cries out to God. Physical hunger teaches us about spiritual hunger, the hunger to be righteous, to be clean, to be restored to God, to eat and drink of that which will never perish, and to see the world made right. Physical hunger also leads us to hunger for things to be made right, for righteousness, for justice, for that time of peace when there will be no more hunger.

Jesus tells these hungry multitudes that though they are hungry now, they will be filled. He really didn’t intend to suggest that a pizza delivery was on the way up the mountain. He was saying that the kingdom of God had come, and that the people all around him had come to the right person, and that God would reverse their misfortune and that they would be filled.

There is a food more nourishing than bread which perishes. And that food is the person of Jesus Christ, his body and blood, his presence, “his holy presence” as the song says. In Him hunger finds its answer.

Take your hunger and desperation and sadness to the throne of God. There you will find comfort, and hope in his kingdom. And when you have had success in this life, and your stomach is full, beware lest you forget the source of life and true nourishment that you so deeply need.

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