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Does Jesus Really Satisfy?

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Jesus has some powerful things to say about the Eucharist in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel: “The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn. 6:51). “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (Jn. 6:54). “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn. 6:55).

These verses lay the foundation for our belief in the Eucharist. As monumental as they are, let’s examine what Jesus says earlier in this chapter: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).

We can easily miss this verse’s significance. It’s worth repeating: He who comes to Jesus will not be hungry. He who believes in Jesus will never be thirsty.

This is just as alarming as the “eat my flesh” bombshell! After all, Christians go hungry and thirsty every day. What is Jesus talking about here? There are at least four ways to understand this passage. Let’s call these the natural, sacramental, spiritual and eschatological interpretations.

Regarding the passage’s natural sense, God provides for His children’s physical needs. As Scripture says: “Look at the birds of the air … your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt. 6:26). “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt. 6:31, 33).

God will give us what we need—he does it all the time. It’s not always apparent; sometimes we don’t need what we think we need. But, our God is “Jehovah Jireh” (Gen. 22:14): The Lord will provide.

From a sacramental perspective, couldn’t this be a reference to the Eucharist? We are in John 6 after all, building up to Jesus’ “hard sayings” on the Real Presence. So, when we read in Jn. 6:35 that coming to Jesus means never growing hungry or thirsty, we should see that He is introducing His intention to give us the Eucharist. He wants to feed and sustain us with it, both physically and spiritually. As often as we receive the Eucharist, we are satiated by Jesus.

This leads to the passage’s spiritual meaning: Our hunger and thirst aren’t always physical. The restlessness, the ache, the longing we feel—that’s a spiritual hunger. God put it there, deep in our hearts, so that He could fill it with His grace, His presence, His gifts and His Spirit. He assures us He will do this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6).

Finally, there is the eschatological meaning, how the passage points to the end of time. In a sense, everyone who comes to Jesus still grows hungry and thirsty. That’s the way of this world: We get hungry, we eat, we’re satisfied for a while, and then we get hungry again.

It will always be this way… until Jesus comes again. On that day, everyone in righteous relationship with Jesus will receive a glorified body, one that will never again experience hunger, thirst, sickness, or suffering of any kind. That’s the promise of Jesus and His Gospel. But, we have to come to Jesus. Now. And we have to stay with Him.

So, I urge you: keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Keep on praying for your daily bread. Keep on receiving our Eucharistic Lord with a pure heart. Then, when Jesus comes, both in the Eucharist and at the end of time, His promise to satisfy will be fulfilled in you.

Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. | [email protected]

This article appeared in the February 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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