Our Gospel today is literally good news. Our Lord makes us an important promise: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus is not talking about physical hunger or physical thirst, obviously. Rather, he is referring to an existential hunger and thirst, that profound need that we occasionally sense in ourselves, a space that nothing the world offers can ever fill.
Have you ever felt this existential need?
I ask because not everyone has experienced it. Or if everyone has, certainly not everyone stays with that feeling. More often than not, the moment we detect it–this inner emptiness–we either run away from it by filling our lives with all sorts of activities to distract us from it, or we fill it with every possbile possession, be it object or person. As a result, many of us go about our days blissfully unaware that we are, in fact, hungry, and each day we weaken from lack of nutrition.
Others are aware of their need, but are blinded by fear and end up starving to death.
This reminds me of an extraordinary–and sad–experiment conducted by a group of scienctists on a fish. What they did was they kept a single fish in an aquarium, and they placed a clear glass to divide the aquarium, with the fish on the left and nothing on the right. Every morning, at the designated time, they would drop just enough pellets into the aquarium–but instead of dropping them on the side of the fish, they scattered it on the other side.
The fish, seeing the pellets floating near the surface of the water, would quickly swim over–only to bump its head against the glass. It would make several attempts before swimming away in probable frustration.
The scientists repeated the experiment for two more days, and the fish continued to behave in the same way–until on the final day it finally learned its lesson and stopped swimming for the inaccessible food.
On the fourth day, the scientists removed the dividing glass, and fed the fish. Naturally, without the divider, the pellets started floating all around the fish. But the fish, having been conditioned by the past days, refused to feed altogether. One morning, after three more days of the same, they found the fish floating surrounded by an abundance of food. It had died of starvation.
We shouldn’t let the same thing happen to us.