6:1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”

It always seems to be the case. There is a vast sea of human need, a hunger that can never be satisfied.  Jesus is reported in Matthew’s Gospel to have said,

you always have the poor with you. (Matthew 26:11)

It is not a statement of callous disregard. It does not express a lack of compassion or concern for those who suffer. It is simply a statement of fact. On this time-bound, horizontal, material plane of existence there will always be need.

The important thing is to face in ourselves the question Jesus asks Philip,

“Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”

Bread is a central metaphor in Christian faith. But what is bread? What is it that we really long for? What is the most basic human need? Is it really a loaf from the oven for which we long?

Of course every human being needs to have provision for the basic necessities of life. Christian faith challenges us to do all that we can to ensure that, as much as possible, the resources of this earth are equitably shared. But, when everyone is fed, has adequate water, shelter, and basic safety, then what?

When the basic necessities of life have been met, will we all rest content and be satisfied? The experience of those of us who live in the wealthiest part of the world, who most disproportionately consume the world’s material benefits, indicates that the answer to this question is, “No”. When all our basic material needs have been met, experience shows that we do not find contentment. We keep reaching, keep striving, searching, longing for something more.

What is this hole that resides at the heart of human experience? Why do discontentment and restlessness lurk about the edges of even the most materially privileged lives? Why is enough never quite enough?

In the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus’ disciples urge him to “eat something” (John 4:31) Jesus replies saying,

I have food to eat that you do not know about. (John 4:32)

What is this food about which the disciples do not know? What is real bread and where may it be found?

These are the questions of faith. They are the questions of a lifetime. When I seek real bread, I am launched on a journey of discovery that will last my entire life.