Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger,
and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. – John 6:35

I NEVER turn down a good meal.    I enjoy eating and dining with family and friends; a sharing that fulfills not only physical hunger but an emotional one as well.  So, it is obvious to me:   get hungry, fill the hunger!

BUT  there is another type of hunger that I must fulfill before it takes a toll on me, and that is a spiritual, inner hunger for peace of mind.   As I take care of my physical body, so must I take care of my spiritual body, my inner personality that is the basis of all my emotions, motivations, thoughts, dreams, and decision-making.  It is this spiritual self that feels hatred and love, peace and anxiety, confidence and fear.  So, how do I take care of this spiritual self so that I don't always act out of "spiritual hunger" but act out of peace of mind?

IN this present time, physical health has the attention of us all.  Quality of life is important!  Taking care of the physical self is vital to getting the job done well and being able to fulfill God's Will in our lives.  Taking care of the spiritual self is just as vital and necessary.    If one doesn't take care of the physical body, sickness becomes an unwelcome guest.   If one doesn't take care of the spiritual self, then misjudgment and possible scandal may actually destroy all that one has invested and worked for.

THAT'S  when knowing one's spiritual hunger can help in making a person stronger, wiser, and mature.  When stress becomes overwhelming, stress creates a hunger for stability and peace.  There are healthy ways of dealing with this hunger as well as destructive ways.  When the heart aches with emotional pain, what is your way of dealing with it?  Some deal with such hunger in negative and destructive ways, such as drinking too much alcohol and even using illegal substances.  Others seek to satisfy an inner longing in sexual situations that are not life-giving but totally centered on self-indulgent desire that destroys the person and eventually brings pain to their families, friends, and those who care for them.  This struggle to keep spiritually healthy is described so well by Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 7, Verse 19:

"For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

SO, here are some recommendations to take care of that inner, spiritual self:

1)  TALK WITH SOMEONE.  We all have something that needs to be expressed.  If a person doesn't talk about their experiences, both happy and tragic, then in time, the spiritual self can no longer hold it in and the consequences are always painful.  In my experience, most family members are always ready to listen, or believe me when I say that there are friends who will always stand by you in good times and bad.  In our Catholic tradition, spiritual directors are necessary to maintain spiritual health.  Talking to a priest, deacon, or someone else, who is knowledgeable in the faith, is recommended to stay on the right path.   Confession (the sacrament of penance) doesn't count as spiritual direction, though spiritual direction can happen there.  You need time to talk and communicate with someone who has the time to listen and guide.  I find that parish confession time doesn't allow the time necessary for spiritual growth.

2)  TAKE TIME TO THINK AND BE ALONE.  Just taking time to think things though is always helpful and beneficial to the inner self.  Just let the mind wander, dream, and even imagine how things would be better.  This will help anyone find answers to their questions.

3)  PRAY AND TAKE TIME TO BE WITH GOD.  This is connected with being alone in thought.  There are times when it is hard to express the feelings of the heart especially after a "bad" day.  Opening your heart in prayer, letting the feelings speak for themselves and being open to God's presence in your life will heal the anxiousness and worry that come from daily life.

4)  RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS OFTEN, ESPECIALLY THE HOLY EUCHARIST.  How important it is to FEED the soul with the greatest gift we have as Catholics, the sacraments. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) is the best food that our souls can feast on.  The Holy Eucharist is the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself!   What more do you need?

5)  PHYSICAL EXERCISE.  Some people are too busy for physical exercise or even find excuses not to exert some physical energy.  But just walking 30 minutes a day will help the spiritual self to express what it has been keeping inside all day.  Plus, a little exercise never hurts.  Stay healthy in body and mind!

6)  STAY IN TOUCH WITH FAMILY MEMBERS.  Friends come and go in our lives but family members are forever.  My family knows me and knows what I have been through so there is no need to explain anything to them.  Use your family support system as a way to fulfill that hunger for love, acceptance, and affirmation.   Allowing your family to take care of you is not "weakness."    On the contrary, the family is a source of strength and perspective.

7)  TAKE TIME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Doing the same stuff every day or doing the same things on your days off?  How about a once-a-month plan to do something that is different and special, such as going to the beach, or hiking, family activities, or going on a "date" with your spouse (remember the famous line, "we never go anywhere?")  Doing something out of the ordinary makes a happy heart.

8)  VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME FOR A CHURCH OR COMMUNITY PROJECT.   Volunteering in a church or community project is a way to stay in touch with the good and getting the needed positive perspective on life!  A person can volunteer to be a coach, support a tutor program at the library, be involved in church activities, teach religious education, or do something together as a family in the many volunteer opportunities that exist around the community and church.

9)  READ A BOOK.  We tell our children to read but how about us?   Reading a book can take us to another world for a little while and we just might learn something new that would help us.  Reading is a great stress reliever and a great way to feed the soul.

10)  TALKING ABOUT READING, READ THE BIBLE AND OTHER SPIRITUAL READINGS.   Reading Sacred Scripture, the word of God, is nutrition for the soul, especially for a soul that is downcast!

THESE are just some ways to deal with the hungers of the spirit.  Most of our spiritual hungers have their basis in past emotional and psychological experiences.  Knowing what motivates you and knowing your hungers will help you deal with negative situations in a much better and more controlled manner.

SO, don't be sorry.  Take care of your physical and spiritual self.  Then, you will be able to accomplish anything with an inner confidence and security that comes from a fulfilled spirit. 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” 
Matthew 5:6

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