In the reading from the Gospel of John from the Sunday just passed (6:24-35), the last verse is one that is very well known, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
What does that mean?
As I ponder it, I come to one conclusion. Despite my love of physical bread and writing about physical bread last week and this week, it has nothing to do with physical bread and physical drink.
It has to do with hungering and thirsting for my true self. My true self will come out if I come to Jesus.
My true self implies something about my priorities.
My true self implies something about what I should care about.
My true self implies something about how I should organize my life.
My true self is freedom within the context of following Jesus.
So, when I think of Jesus as the bread of life, I think of placing all my faith, all my trust, and the way that I try (key word here is try) to lead my life in the way that he would want me to.
That doesn't mean that I can't have goals and dreams and desires that are mostly for me--take my running. But it also means that even my running can be approached in a way that represents following Jesus. Using it as a basis for spiritual pondering. Using it as a way to reach out to others. Using it as a way to show love. Using it as a way to celebrate God's gifts to me.
One way to think of summarizing this is that it means setting expectations in a way that is consistent with what Jesus would want. Not what society would promote. And if I set my expectations based on what Jesus would want and I reach those expectations then my soul will be satisfied even if it is not what society wants. So much of whether we hunger and thirst (and more generally yearn) has to do with how we frame things. Just in the past week, I heard a story on the radio about how bronze medalists are actually happier with the outcome than silver medalists. Why, despite the fact that the silver medal is a higher place. Silver medalists tend to frame their experience as "not quite getting gold". In contrast, bronze medalists tend to frame their experience as "at least I got a medal". So, being satisfied with what a life centered on Jesus suggests (and demands) rather than what society does has so much to do with how I frame the question of my happiness.
Jesus being the bread of life means that I think about how to structure my existence and my growth (thinking of yeast-based breads and not just flat breads) in line with Jesus which sets my expectations which determines whether I will hunger and thirst.