Priests receive many phone calls. Some people want to speak about a crisis they’re going through; others want information on how to get married; still others need copies of their sacrament certificates. When the phone rings late at night, however, the first thought that goes through a priest’s mind is, this must be an emergency. A good friend of mine who is a priest in another diocese told me about a phone call he received at 10:30 one evening. “Father,” the man on the phone said, “the lotto is up to 30 million. Please pray that I win.”
As humorous as this is, that man’s request is a paradigm of the spiritual lives of many people. Many people base their relationship with the Lord solely on what they can get from him. We see an example of this in the Gospel of John chapter 6 (24-35). The scene takes place just after Jesus had fed the crowd by multiplying the loaves and the fish. The crowd is looking for Jesus, but their motive for looking for him is not pure. So Jesus tells them outright, “…you’re not looking for me because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “You were hungry and I fed you. You’re not looking for me because of who I am, but because of what I gave you.” Their relationship with Jesus is based on mixed motives.
What is your relationship with Jesus based on? What is your prayer like? There are many ways to pray, but a common way is the prayer of petition. This a prayer that is based on asking the Lord for things. So some people ask to win the lottery, for example. Some petitions are more honorable: they ask the Lord to bless their family, for world peace, or for health. And all of these prayers are good because the prayer of petition is good. But this should not be at the heart of our relationship with Jesus.
You see, many of us may only speak to Jesus when we need something, or our daily prayer is based on asking favors of the Lord. But our prayer and our relationship with the Lord should not be based upon what we get from him. Our prayer should be to know Jesus Christ alone! We should seek the Lord not for specific favors; we should seek him because he is God! We should seek him for himself. St. Augustine said it best: “You seek [Jesus] for worldly motives, not for spiritual ones. How many people there are who seek Jesus solely for worldly ends! Rarely does someone look for Jesus for the sake of Jesus.”
A true relationship with the Lord is about friendship with him. What should be at the heart of our prayer is being with Jesus…dwelling with him…abiding with him. Just simply sitting in his presence. Being with Jesus because he’s Jesus…not because he can give us something. This is what Jesus wanted the crowd to know: he didn’t want them searching for him because he physically fed them; he wanted them searching for him because he alone could spiritually fill them. He wanted them searching for him because he’s God and he’s the one who could give meaning to their lives; he could fill their deepest longings and satisfy their deepest desires.
John chapter 6 speaks of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus tells us that he himself is the bread of life. When we go to Mass we are privileged to receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. When we go to Mass we should seek Jesus alone because he is the only one who can fill us. “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”