Rector's Reflections: The Spirit of Shalom
Last Sunday, in John 6:1-14, the feeding of the "5,000" was recounted. It is said at v. 2 that "A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick." These are the kinds of signs that Jesus is referencing in v. 26. He then follows up these miracles of healing with the feeding of a great multitude. Note the people’s response after that event: they tried to track him down and make him their king, even against his will (sounds like our own patron saint, Martin of Tours, who tried hiding in a barn to escape being made a bishop).
This bread and fish that they had eaten-- such humble fare, the fare of a very poor person, since barley then and now was used more often as animal feed—had completely satisfied the great crowd, according to v. 12. So something humble and scorned as "poor folk’s food" has become the thing that great crowds seek after – even greedily.
That word "satisfied" jumps out for me. It is not often that we hear of people being fully satisfied. We are programmed to always want more, more, more. We consume away, but in the end often end up just as hungry as ever. Being hungry and unsatisfied is embedded in our culture.
The Rolling Stones even wrote a song about this—and since they seem to be able to live forever, maybe we should pay attention. "I can’t get no satisfaction," Mick sings about not being able to get the girl he has his eye on, but we all probably have that reaction so often throughout our days.
To be satisfied or fulfilled is to take yourself off the hamster wheel of consumption that keeps the economy moving. We are always looking around the corner up ahead for the Next Big Thing. Too often we don’t slow down to appreciate the current moment, telling ourselves there is something even better up around the bend. Rather than appreciate fulfilling work, too many of us keep trying to ascend the ladder of "success" and advancement until we get further and further away from what drew up into our desired profession in the first place.
Yet we long for satisfaction—to feel complete, whole, filled with well-being, at peace. Our Jewish kindred have a beautiful word for this: shalom. Shalom can be found in the smallest, simplest things.
Where do you find "shalom?" How might you be more mindful about seeking that sense of satisfaction, peace, and well-being?
May we all be blessed to find moments of satisfaction and contentment, especially now, when we need that more than ever.