Four years ago, a young man made an international headline because of his surprising move to give up his very promising career and entered the seminary to become a Catholic priest. Chase Hilgenbrinck, a very promising soccer-player who made it to the Major League Soccer in 2008 (the New England Revolution), after playing as a professional player in Chile, cut short his celebrity-status and joined the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in northern Maryland. His decision caught many by surprise except those who knew him.
When I heard the News then, I was rejoicing silently. I was rejoicing of the fact that God’s voice calling someone to his service, overwhelms all the other voices that this young man was trying to pay attention to as well. Being a celebrity, we can just speculate of the pressure to satisfy social expectation. Being a celebrity, we can imagine the promise of fame, popularity, security, and now with twitters and facebook, the easy ways to attract followers.
Yet Chase Hilgenbrinck gave it all up and followed his dream- his dream which is motivated by the desire to be obedient to the faith and to the call of God he heard in his life.
And it seems that he has no regrets of his decision. After three years and a half in the seminary, his former teammate caught up with him and this is one of the things he said to his former buddy: ‘Looking through human eyes, it seems impossible that I would leave behind everything that I knew and everything that I worked for. But when I look with the eyes of faith and I realize that there’s so much more to life than the game, I realize just how blessed I am to be in a seminary.’ http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2012/01/20/what-ever-happened-chase-hilgenbrick
Friends, you might already have heard this story or have read it somewhere, but I think it is worth repeating. Chase realized that there is more to life than the game as he looks at it through the eyes of faith. Interestingly, Jesus in our gospel today would have said the same to the crowd who followed him on the other side of the lake. He would want them to realize that there is more to life than eating bread or satisfying one’s hunger for food. He would want them to see and understand that following him means more than just expecting ‘bread’ (i.e. food, security, or personal satisfaction) from him. He wants that people would listen to God speaking in their lives- the God who generously gives them the Bread, the food that endures to eternal life. And this is only possible through faith which is God’s precious gift to us. Without faith, God wouldn’t make any sense for us. And Jesus really stresses it here, that by it is not enough to say we have faith in God. We must therefore ‘believe in the one he has sent’– Christ.
Christ is ‘our window on God. His words and actions are like so many panes of glass through which we can see what the Father is like,’ according to Pat Collins, CM. (P.173, Intimacy and the hungers of the heart).
So we need to ask ourselves: How real is Christ in our life? How real God is for us in our life?
We can find the answer to these questions by reflecting on the words of St Paul in our Second Reading today. Let’s have a reality check. We claim to be Christians, so therefore as St Paul would advise us, we are ‘not to go on living the aimless kind of life pagans live.’ This means, to live every moment with God, unlike the unbelievers who live as if there is no God at all. ‘Without God’, Pope Benedict wrote, ‘[human being] neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is.’ (#78 Encyclical Caritas in veritate)
Our First Reading today also offers us another answer to the question how real God is in our life.
The Israelites were freed from the slavery of Egypt by God. They were taken to the desert. But unfortunately they missed the meaning of the sign of being there when they felt the hunger. So as human frailty dictates they would rather be remaining as slaves in Egypt when they ‘can sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to [their] heart’s content.
So God had to show them the meaning of his move to liberate them- that it is he now who is to serve them whatever they need, that it is he now who would tend to their wounds, and that it is he now whom they should serve because he doesn’t rule by enslaving people but in freedom.
God takes care of us in all our needs. It might be arguable or even hard to believe because at times, we felt like he hasn’t cared at all. ‘Many of us struggle with the revelation that God our loving Father, loves us unconditionally,’ says Fr Patrick O’Sullivan. ‘We struggle because we still think we need ‘to get it right’, to behave as we should, so that we can be sure that God really loves us (Prayer and Relationships), p 9.) ‘The only way to break this circuit’, Fr O’Sullivan continues, ‘is to trust Jesus in what he has told us about his Father (P& R, p 10.)
We therefore need to continue believing and trusting in Jesus Christ. We therefore need to look at Jesus always, says our retired Cardinal in Cebu. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal says: ‘We really see Jesus when we don’t always long for the relative beauty, the luxury, the pleasure, the noises in our world today. We really see when we long for the real beauty which is by giving ourselves for others. We could see Jesus in silence, in meditation and in prayer (You’re still Young, I’m Old, p 14-15).
If God is real in our life, like Chase we realize that there is more to life than just eating or drinking or fame or money.So as we continue our celebration today, let’s thank God for the gift of faith. Let’ also thank God for giving us himself not only as our food but really our assurance for life. Amen.