“Purity of Desire”
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 5, 2018
Exodus 16: 2-4; 12-15
Psalm 78: 14-20; 23-25
1 Corinthians 10:1-6
John 6: 24-35
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
Today is a very special day in my life personally. It was exactly twenty years ago today that three young deacons from the Cathedral of the King, Dcn. Ariel Santos, Dcn. Claro Navalta, and myself, along with fifteen or so from other parishes of Philippines in CEC were ordained into priesthood at the Church of the Holy Trinity, at Forbes Park, Makati. What I have learned from these twenty years is that the biggest fulfillment of my role as a priest is to help you see and fulfill your role as a priest. We are all part of the royal priesthood; and the biggest part of my job is to help you walk in this. This is to bring us all into the fullness of the faith, into the fullness of believing.
This is part of what the Scriptures gives us today with some very interesting insights into who we are as believers. In the Gospel we see the many awesome promises that Jesus makes: “The Son of Man shall give you food which endures to eternal life. My Father brings you the true bread out of heaven, and this bread gives life to the world.” He goes on to say, “I am the bread of life; you come to Me, you won’t hunger; you come to Me and you won’t thirst.” We have to realize who Jesus was addressing when He said this. It was the multitude – those five thousand that He fed and probably some more – because when the word spread the next day, I am sure there were more than this number who were around. He was promising the multitude the Bread of Life – that they would never hunger or thirst. He was promising the multitude eternal life because of His work.
This is not only for those who wear vestments and do certain actions on Sundays or on other times, but for all of God’s people, because Jesus was speaking to the multitude – to all of us. In the middle of Jesus’ speaking to all of us, He stirs up something in our hearts. When He confronted the people, and they tried to be conversational saying, “Lord, always give us this bread,” what they were really saying was, “When is the next feeding? Bring in some more bread, Lord!” They were pretty excited about this, and who wouldn’t be? Jesus addressed them saying, “You seek Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. You seek Me for another feeding time, not just because something special is going on here.”
The Lord asks you this question today: Why do you seek Him? In the Gospel, the people came because they received loaves and were filled. They saw Him for this reason. Now, why do you seek the Lord this morning? Why do you come in this chapel? In this school? At this street, and in this community on this day? The question that Jesus asked the multitude is a question for all of us today: Why do you seek Me? Jesus told them, “You came to seek food,” and He addressed this issue saying, “Do not work for food which perishes, but work for the food for eternal life.”
Jesus uses food as a very important metaphor because food is one of man’s basic desires. Food, shelter, and companionship are man’s basic desires, and Jesus was using food say, “Make sure your desires are what they ought to be. Let your most basic desire be something important.” Do you realize what it would be like if when God created man, He didn’t give him a desire for food? What if you did not have hunger pains? What if food did not taste good? What if food was ordinary or if you never got hungry? We would all starve to death because we wouldn’t eat. If procreation were unpleasant, man would soon be extinct because people wouldn’t do this on a regular basis unless it were pleasant. Why would you do something this unless you got some joy out of it? God is smart because He puts desires within us. The Lord is showing us food as a symbol of the desires that God gives us.
In the Old Testament reading and also in the Psalm reading, it shows us that God made us with desires. Sometimes with desires come choices. Sometimes, our desires are ours, and sometimes, our desires are His. They are not always the same. In Psalm 78:18, it says that they asked for food according to their desires. The Lord gave them their desires. In verse 29 says, “Their desire, He gave to them.”
Man’s usual approach is, “If God gives me what I want, He must be very happy with me. He is pleased with me. I have satisfied Him, and God is so pleased with me because He gave me what I wanted. He gave me my desire.” But as odd as it may sound, this is not always true. Sometimes, God may give you what you ask for, but He is not very happy about it. He is not very happy for you asking. Scriptures shows this in 1Corinthians 10, “They craved for evil things.” “Don’t be like the Israelites, because they craved evil things - and yet God gave it to them. It also said that God was not well pleased with many of them, and their bodies fell in the wilderness. In the Gospel as Jesus was telling the story He said, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” - because the people asked for it, God gave it to them. It sounds like a good deal; it must be something God wanted them to have. God loves to give their desires, and now, they had gotten them. But what happened to them? Scriptures says, “And they died.”
It seems like not all our desires are pleasing to God, even when He gives them. Sometimes, we use this as a test, a fleece before the Lord: “If God gives it me, it must be what He wanted me to have.” This is not always how it works. This story is a stark confrontation to this concept. Not everything that we ask for is pleasing to God. If God gives us something, even though He is not pleased with us, does this mean that He doesn’t love us? No! There is a difference between “not being pleased with you” and “not loving you.” When your puppy makes a mess on the carpet, you are not pleased with your puppy, but you still love it. When a child makes a dent in the car because of an accident, the parents are not pleased with the child, but they still love him. When your children miss curfew by three hours, you are not very happy with them, but as parents you still love them. Probably, the parents will give them another chance later to prove themselves. There is a difference between being displeased with someone and not loving someone. God can never stop loving us because He is love. This is what He does, and this is who He is. Still, there are some things that we do that plainly do not please Him because it is our desire instead of His desire.
What really pleases God is when He gives us His desire. Psalm 37: says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delighting in the Lord first is making Him your desire. When we make God our desire, how can He not fulfill that? This is what He wants to do. This is what all of creation is all about. This is why He created man, so that He can be our desire and give Himself to us. When we delight ourselves in the Lord and make Him our desire, He will fulfill this desire; He will be happy to do so and it will please Him. When He fulfills this desire, it is more than enough. This is why Scriptures says, “Lord, not My will, but Yours be done.” “Lord, let Your desire be done in Me.”
When Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added,” it is seeking God’s desire first, and He will take care of your desire. If we seek our desires, we could end up lying in the wilderness. It is not because God doesn’t love us, but because this is the end of our desire as our desires aren’t usually good for us. Our desires can be so simple and harmless like an extra piece of chocolate cake or as dangerous as ingesting an illegal chemical substance. Our desire can be as complex as desiring a sexual relationship with somebody of the same gender. Our desires can be so many things, but are they God’s desires? Just because they are ours, and just because God allows it doesn’t mean that He is really excited about it.
Our prayer must always be, “Lord, what is Your desire for me?” God promises to give. Look at all the things He said. In the gospel, He promises us food which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man shall give you. He promises, “My Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.” He promises the bread of God that comes down out of heaven that gives life to the world. He promises, “If you come to Me because I am the Bread of Life, you shall not hunger. If you come to Me, you shall not thirst.” We get mixed up sometimes because we confuse our hunger for our desires with our desire for Him. When we cast our desires in another direction, we start feeling a little empty. We may not be devoting much time to our relationship with the Lord as we should. Maybe we don’t pray so much as we should. Maybe we don’t read His Word as we should or spend time in service as we should. Then, we start to feel a little empty and would say, “Lord, I am so hungry for You.” Look at the words of Jesus, “He who comes to Me shall not hunger; He who believes in Me shall not thirst.” What part of “shall not thirst” don’t we understand? What part of “shall not hunger” don’t we understand? We can never be hungry for the Lord because He says, “I am going to fulfill that hunger when you come to Me.” If we are hungry for Him it means that He is not doing His job of feeding us, and this cannot be. We are hungry because we suddenly develop hunger for other things, for our desires. Maybe, we are missing that emotional high that we felt before in a Church service. We are not missing God; He is still there. We are just missing that emotional fire. In real life, sometimes, emotions are there and sometimes they are not. In God’s wisdom, this is the way He does it but He is not missing. We want to be excited all the time, but if we are excited all the time, how can we tell the difference between being excited and not being excited? God knows how to give a rhythm into our lives, but we need to be able to identify when we are really tapped into God’s desires and wanting God’s desires and receiving God’s desires.
God has promised, “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened.” This context is talking not about your desire, but His. “Ask for My desires,” and you will get them.” “Seek for My desires,” and you will get them. “Knock and seek for My desires” and you will get them. This is God’s promise.
This is Jesus’ introduction to John 6. To understand John chapter 6, you have to understand what I just said. It is not about us getting our desires met, but Jesus, the Bread of Life, coming and bringing us eternal life. A lot of people have trouble understanding this chapter because they don’t believe it. They don’t believe that He who partakes of the Son of Man and drinks His blood has eternal life. They have trouble comprehending how they can eat His flesh and drink His blood. If they don’t believe it, they will never understand it.
This is why Jesus says in verse 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” If we don’t believe, we will never get the rest of what He is about to say because it is pretty weird to the natural mind. Jesus says, “This is My desire for you. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Bread of heaven coming down from heaven to the world to bring life to the world.” Then He says, “Partake of Me.” This is His will.
How do we know that His whole will is tied up in partaking of His body and blood? In Luke 22:15, Jesus said in the Upper Room, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” He is going back to the bread, to His body and blood. He is going back to being the Bread of Life as He talked about in John 6. Jesus says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this with you that we can eat and share it together.” What did Jesus do? He took a cup, and gave thanks. He took bread and broke it and gave thanks. He tied the Passover to that message from the year before about Him being the Bread of Life and says, “This is what I longed and yearned for.”
Reading the rest of John chapter 6 is all about Jesus being the Bread of Life and His desires versus our desires, and how His desire is to be one with Him at His table. He says, “He who eats My blood and drinks My flesh abides in Me and I in Him.” Jesus’ whole desire as He brings it and develops it starts at the Table. His whole desire for us is to have fellowship with Him, to live in thanksgiving to Him because this is what He did in the Upper Room. “This is what I desired to do. Thank You, Father, for this bread. Thank You, Father, for this cup.” As time went on, the disciples learned to do this also, “Thank You, Lord, for the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Thank you for His blood, which washes us from our sins.”
God’s desire, Christ’s desire starts at the Table. This Bread which comes from this Table gives life, not just to our mortal bodies, but life to the world. It all starts at the Table - with the body of Christ; the bread of heaven; His blood, the cup of salvation. This desire of God flows from the Table and it flows out. It is God’s will for Christ to suffer on the cross. Jesus says, “Lord, that is Your desire, and if it is Your desire, it is My desire. But because I do this, now, I can establish My Table, My Eucharist, so that all My people can be grateful together. All Your children can come together as one. As one, we can love the world, and we can touch the world and redeem the world and bring it back to where it ought to be. Lord, Your kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven.”
This is God’s desire. This is our desire. God says that this is His desire for us, and so we are here to know why we are here today and to know what to seek. Do you seek what the Lord seeks coming from the Table? Or do we seek, “Lord, a raise in wages would be nice.” But remember, when we seek His desires, God provides all those things.
As we continue in this month of August in reading from John chapter 6, remember that it starts at the Table. Everything that He has told us about, “I am the Bread of Life and I have come to bring life to the world. Come that you may dwell in Me, and I, in you.” As Jesus develops this, let us tie it together to this Table. This is why it is so important that we come to the Table, and share with Him. The manna did not come once a week, but it came every day; and this is indeed the type of what God has for us. What God has for us starts at the Table but He brings it to us daily. He empowers us daily. He dwells with us daily so that we can bring His presence to the world. Every one of us can do this. This is why every one of us comes to be fed.
All of us are called to follow His desire – as God loved the world, His desire for us is to love the world, too. It is not just to love the Church, but love the world, too. As we are empowered at the Table, we are able to do this. May God bring us to the place where it is not about our desires anymore, but all about the desires of God. Please God and let God be pleased with us as we seek His desire and let Him bring His desires for us in our lives.