“…[they] came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.” (John 6:24)
Over the last week, many of us have been awed by the athletic achievements we have seen at the Olympics. As a country we have fallen in love with Gabby Douglas’ smile, Missy Franklin’s exuberance, and Katie Ledecky’s youth. All three of these teenagers have witnessed to the presence of God in some way after winning their gold medals. Gabby told the sideline reporter on national television minutes after winning gold: “I give all the glory to God…the glory goes up to him and his blessings fall down on me.” Katie Ledecky is the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic team since she just turned 15 in March. She is a student at Stone Ridge High School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. Her godfather is a Jesuit priest, and she says that she prays a Hail Mary before every race. Missy Franklin also attends a Catholic high school though she is not Catholic, yet. Missy lives in Aurora, Colorado and dedicated these games to the victims of the tragic shooting. I say she is not Catholic yet because although her family is Protestant, Missy has been quoted as saying she is thinking about becoming a Catholic because of the incredible spiritual experience of going to Catholic high school retreats and going to Mass. She is looking for the same thing that the people in today’s gospel are looking for. Something we can only find here on the altar. Yesterday, a parishioner sent me an article that said that Olympic athletes were flocking to daily Mass. Of all the religious services taking place in the athlete’s village, Mass is the most attended particularly since they are celebrating the Eucharist three times a day. Even in competition, these athletes, like the crowds, like us on this Sunday, are looking for Jesus.
But the crowds come looking for a sign from Jesus. They aren’t aware yet that what Jesus has to offer is life-giving bread. They come hungering for the physical and perishable not the spiritual. At times we are very much like the crowds in today’s gospel. We look for signs from above and fail to recognize the real presence of Christ in our midst. Jesus gives himself totally to us in the Eucharist. He prepares for us this heavenly meal that causes the crowd to tell him “give us this bread always!” Unfortunately many of us take this meal in bits and pieces. Imagine a buffet spread before you and you pick at all the food but don’t sit down to savor what you are eating, to digest, and to enjoy. We cannot take Jesus in bits and pieces. We have to take him all! That is what communion is all about. A part time spiritual life, like the manna in the desert, will perish. The Eucharist creates a permanent bond that calls us to a deeper relationship with our Lord that does not perish. And how do we strengthen this relationship with Christ? On our knees before the Blessed Sacrament! It is only there face to face with our Lord and God that we get to know the Master and that we hunger for him even more. He is there every day in the tabernacle waiting for you, longing for you, and yes, hungering for you. Our young Olympians are seeking out Christ every day before they compete and proclaiming his glory to the entire word. How much more do we need our Lord to be able to take his presence and proclaim his glory to a world hungering for the divine?