And I know what it is like to be hungry. Not hungry like the homeless or like starving children in third world countries. But I've done without, for a variety of reasons. I have let myself be cranky when I have food, but not what I really want and no money to buy what I crave. And thinking about the homeless and the starving children often chastises me, but sometimes it just makes me feel stupid.
We need food, I want to tell Jesus. We die without it.
But we die, really die, without the Bread of Life.
So I must put this directive from Our Lord into context. Jesus had recently fed five thousand people from a small amount of food (maybe enough to feed one family). Then some of them go looking for him and realize that he is not there and he didn't leave with his disciples. So the crowd Jesus is now talking to have taken the time and effort to find him, and they have been at least partial witnesses to two miracles (though how much of those miracles they saw is not at all clear).
And Jesus says to them, "You came only because I filled your bellies." Well, yes. Isn't it human nature to go where the food is? Without food, we die.
But Jesus isn't so much admonishing, but correcting them. And correction is not about being "wrong," but wrong-minded. Of course food is necessary. These people aren't lazy blights on society that are not willing to work in order to provide their sustenance. But where else can they eat and hear His teaching? The problem is they are still focused on their bodies and neglecting the spiritual aspect of life that is the center of The Lord's message.
He says, "You need to be fed. I am the food."
Just as the body can be tricked into thinking that a craving is a need, so our spirits can be tricked into thinking there is nourishment outside of Christ. There is some value to some things that are not directly from Jesus. But it is like the difference between canned peaches and the fresh fruit from the tree. And too often, we just want peach flavored gum.
Lord of all creation, source of all life, help us to recognize our craving for You. Remind us to taste and see that You are good. Amen in Christ Jesus.