stay hungry

There is a phrase in Matthew’s story of the Transfiguration that grabbed hold of me a few weeks ago and hasn’t let go. Just after Jesus has touched Peter, James, and John and told them not to be afraid, they look up and see Jesus himself alone. Those three little words–Jesus himself alone–encompass the whole of the Christian life. They certainly name the hunger that has dogged me for as long as I can remember, a hunger that I tried to satisfy in many ways and that eventually drove me into the monastery. Here I have learned that as my hunger for Jesus alone is filled, it paradoxically deepens and grows.

Now more than ever our call as a church and a Christian people is to allow ourselves to be satisfied by nothing less than Jesus himself alone. We are undergoing our own kind of dark transfiguration, wherein the hatred, violence, and disharmony that have always run underneath our society and our own lives are revealed to us in a way that, at least for many of us, is shocking. It’s not that these forces are new. But many of us are newly able to see them and to name them. In this context, I am hungrier than ever for Jesus alone.

In a world in which children are poisoned by their drinking water because they’re too black or too poor to matter, Jesus is the living water. In a world in which some starve so that others can live in luxury and excess, Jesus is the true bread come down from heaven. In a society of lies and misdirection, of alternative facts and fake news, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. And in a world that is wounded by fear and violence, Jesus is the balm of Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

As we journey through Lent we could have no better discipline than to fast from everything that does not begin and end in Jesus alone. We need to fast from the junk food of consumerism and materialism that keeps us sleepy and numb. Fast from the divisive self-righteousness that stops our ears to the pain and fear in our brothers’ and sisters’ cries. Fast from easy action that assuages our guilty consciences but is not grounded in prayer. And most of all fast from the silence and indifference that keep us chained and isolated in our accommodation of evil and injustice.

If we refuse to satisfy our hunger with anything but Jesus himself alone, that hunger will hollow us out so that we can become living tabernacles bearing the presence of Jesus Christ into a world that is starving for peace and wholeness.

Stay hungry.


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