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Father Ronan on a Hunger for Purpose

The deepest hungers of the human heart are not for food.

When most of us feel hungry we open the refrigerator door, go to a cabinet and find something to eat, dial for takeout, or look for a place to find and buy some food. Without much effort, we find a way to satiate our hunger. Yet we all know that there are other kinds of hungers which are not so easily satisfied—a longing for companionship and love; a yearning for meaning and purpose.

Yes, the deepest hungers of the human heart are not for food, but rather for relationships with others that are significant and life-giving and for a sense of purpose. The God Who created each of us has placed this longing in every person’s heart, and most every day, in one way or another, it is a hunger we seek to satisfy. When we experience it, we not only feel nourished, we feel fulfilled—more complete and joyful. And when it is lacking, we know the anguish and pain of disappointment, incompleteness and unhappiness.

The hungers of the world are well known to our God.  Jesus, God’s gift to all of humanity, walked the earth and experienced them all. He knows the complexities of life; the importance of family; the need for good friendships; the pain of betrayal; the necessity to cultivate a forgiving heart if one is to be whole again. And above all, he understood the fundamental need for a relationship with His loving God, who sustained Him in life through death into a resurrected life, ultimately bringing Him home again to dwell where there is no time. 

Jesus healed and transformed those who sought Him and whom he sought out who were sick, lonely, and ostracized; those who were chasing after stuff that ultimately did not fill their void.  He gave direction to those who were lost, and purpose to those who lacked meaning in their lives. And so we, too, can turn to Jesus for guidance, assistance and nurturance in every aspect of our lives.  

When Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” those who heard Him were shocked—appropriately so. He goes on to explain: “I am the living bread, whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” This is not a statement made for one moment in time; rather it is a proclamation of a truth that endures for all time, available to us in the Eucharist.   

God’s gift to humankind of His Son is the explicit response of our Creator to our hunger. It is in Christ that all of the longings of the human heart are filled. We are brought into this relationship at our Baptism and invited ever deeper into relationship with the Word proclaimed, the Sacraments received and the community gathered who together become the Body of Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is meant to be dynamic, and requires each person’s assent day by day, if it is to be a fulfilling one—just as in our human relationships.

Many of our brothers and sisters are starving—malnourished at an advanced level that extends beyond the need for food that perishes. As I look out the window of my office onto the Training Field this morning, I see men and women hurrying along on their way to work. I see the same thing in the early morning when I am walking in the Navy Yard—people with intense features and a quick pace, hustling along to the ferry or the bus for the beginning of their work day. And I wonder … what kind of a day will they have? Will their hungers be satisfied? 

Rev. James Ronan

Pastor, St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish

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