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Humble Need

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday of the Year. fr David Rocks helps us to see how our needs open us to God's grace. 

Some days ago, somebody sent me a postcard that had a slogan emblazed on it that went like this: “Hell hath no fury like me when I’m slightly inconvenienced and hungry.” It’s the kind of thing that makes people smile, because it sheds a different humour on a well-known cliché, but also points towards something that we recognise in ourselves.

Babies get very cross when they’re hungry. They feel the need for satisfying their hunger very deeply, but they know they depend on others to provide the means to satisfy that need, which they can’t express. We have all been babies, and have all gone through the process of learning to express in language our need for food, and beyond that we have been able to find our own sources. But this very basic need is perhaps the first time we experience the extent of our neediness. Having learned to address this, we might feel that we can address all our needs ourselves, and be completely independent. In such a mind-set, we might want some of our deeper, less apparent needs, to go away. It is easy, and perhaps seems essential, for us to become detached from our neediness. Then, too, we can become expectant of others to attend to their own needs. We can become selfish.

The postcard I read made me smile. But it also reminded me of my experiences of my most basic needs being challenged. When I’m hungry, or tired, then my usual defence mechanisms are worn down, and I may no longer recognise myself as the person I expect myself to be. Important needs require attention.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus arrives before a great crowd, and he realises that their need is both simple and great. It is one of the simplest needs of human persons, but if it is unsatisfied, it becomes a great problem. Many people around us struggle to get enough to eat. 

Jesus knows he must satisfy their essential need, their felt need, first. And in doing so, he teaches us that the deeper need he has come to address is one that depends on him for satisfaction. In this moment, he teaches the glory of humility.

They sit on the ground, in touch with the earth on which they depend, and the meagre offering of bread and fish brings abundant satisfaction to the great multitude. There is plenty left over, too. The people are satisfied, but they misjudge the situation.

The Lord departs with haste because he fears they will make him their King. They want to rejoice in the fulfilment of their most basic needs, and to control that need. He demands more. He wants them to move away from seeking to control needs and to depend on him in their search for deeper satisfaction. But he can’t teach all of that today. 

They need to know they are full first.

Each time we come together for the Mass, we are invited to sit on the ground, to be close to the earth we depend upon, and to share our humility together. Whatever we know outside of status or wealth, within this place we are united in our profound need and longing. We are fed with something that is simple and great – simple bread and wine, great and eternal glory. It is a great privilege for us to recognise ever more deeply the awesome extent of our need for God’s mercy and redemption. We lose nothing in this encounter. The loss comes when we are too proud of our ability to address our own needs.

Experiencing God’s benevolence to us, we should neither seek to set up our own independent economy of limited mercy in which we settle for less; nor should we characterise God as some easy answer to difficult questions. We need to respond to his generosity by imitating it. He can feed us with more than we need.

Readings: 2 Kings 4:42-44|Ephesians 4:1-6|John 6:1-15

David Edward Rocks O.P.

David Edward Rocks David Edward Rocks OP is recently completed his term as Parish Priest of Holy Cross, Leicester.


fr. Stephen, OP commented on 25-Jul-2015 12:40 PM
May I compliment you on this reflection, David. Thank you for sharing it.
Sister Maria DeMonte commented on 25-Jul-2015 06:39 PM
Your homily was inspiring and enriching. I felt taken in with your words.
I know Christ was present with me as I reflected on your words. Thank you.
Anonymous commented on 26-Jul-2015 06:37 AM
Thank you, I feel the shadows retreat, the deep hunger return. I am nourished by your words as I ache with my own inadequacies and failings.
Anonymous commented on 26-Jul-2015 09:14 AM
God bless you brother, thanks for sharing this reflection with us!
Rhian Morgan commented on 26-Jul-2015 02:26 PM
All very true but isn't the hidden message that God has already given us what we need... we must learnt to share?

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