He opened his eyes, a crescent of light flooding the landscape of his vision. Heat, heat like was never felt before and dryness like an overcooked clay pot. He looked around as he took his first breath. His legs shaking like a newborn deer as he made his way to the first figure he could see. “Excuse me sir,” he cried out. No answer. “Sir, do you have any water?” Still nothing. Frustrated by the lack of compassion, he looked around and realized he was somehow with the Israelites right after God had led them out of Egypt. Suddenly, a sharp pain in his stomach. He needed water and food but nobody seemed to be able to see him. The more he cried out the more desperate he became.
How unfair that he would be placed here. His life back home was not perfect, but this was worse than anything. Why would God lead him here without a plan, without support, barely clinging to life? Without food and water he would surely die soon. Those around him seemed to be in a similar predicament.
In the distance he heard one of them crying out, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”
It was as if they were taking words from his mouth. Finally, a cloud opened and a booming voice provided an answer, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”
It happened just as was foretold. Manna came down like the dewfall and he was able to eat his fill. Day after day he was fed by this miraculous bread, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually he became spiteful, he wanted so much more. If this God was so good why would He continue sending the same old bread? No seasoning, barely palatable. Darkness.
Light like that of a thousand suns. He now found himself comfortable on the side of a hill, his fingers grazing through the soft grass. As he gained composure he noticed thousands of people around him all waiting to be fed. He noticed again that his hunger was insatiable, but only five loaves and two fish for this entire crowd? Impossible to say the least. He doubted that which he could not understand. Then, there came a great commotion in the crowd. Bread was being distributed to all, somehow he would not go hungry. He ate and it fulfilled him for a time, but he eventually became fatigued again. A figure stood in the distance and said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” He did not know the full meaning of this phrase, but he knew that this was the bread he was searching for. A bread that would truly satisfy. A bread that would change him from within and make him immortal. A bread that would leave nothing to want. In desperation for the very thing he cried out to God, “Please Lord, give me this bread of life.” Darkness.
Light and the ringing of bells as his eyelids opened almost like a door to a new world. Singing like that of angels rang through the building he found himself in. A rough hand suddenly grazed his shoulder motioning him up and forward. He knew not where he was being led, but it somehow felt familial. Suddenly, from the back of his mind a phrase leapt forward, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” He drew closer. As his eyes adjusted he realized he was in a church at what appeared to be a wedding ceremony. He had left the reserved seat and was now walking forward, but only a blurry figure stood where the bride and groom would exchange their vows. He continued forward as something overcame him. A feeling like that which he had just experienced moments before. It became too much and he fell to the ground as he proclaimed, “I believe!”
Normally darkness and confusion would set in at this point, but everything became lighter. Like a thousand bright candles had just been illumined all at once. His whole being began to float as he rested in this ecstasy. Oh pure bliss, oh joy unbounded! Immortality was finally his as fear and anxiety melted away. Faster and faster he flew into the heights of this unknown spectacle, his hair flowing freely in the breeze, symbolizing his own newfound freedom. Finally, HE WAS HOME!
This is the story of a man who constantly doubted the goodness and power of God. A man who felt he would be better off at times on his own. A man who was searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. A man who had to trust and believe in order to truly live. Who is this man? This man is me. This man is you.
Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.