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Crave Pure Spiritual Milk

“Crave pure spiritual milk.”

If we could let this message sink into our heart, our problems would vanish. “Crave pure spiritual milk.” If we built our life on nothing else, waking up each morning seeking only this, everything else would fall into place. In his first epistle, St. Peter sums up not only the Gospel, and our Lord’s words today, but the whole purpose of your life in four words: “Crave pure spiritual milk.”

“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:4).

Our Gospel this morning comes from a sober conversation. Our Lord has just now instituted the Blessed Eucharist. The disciples are gathered for the Last Supper. The incarnate God shares his body and blood. Judas dips the bread in the chalice, stands, and walks out the room. The door shuts. They are alone, and Christ gives his final sermon. It is a second type of Sermon on the Mount, but this time he is not preaching to the crowds. He is preaching to the few elect, candidly and soberly.

“Now is the Son of Man glorified…Little children, yet a little while I am with you…They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (13:31,33; 16:2,3).

He lays out all the challenges we will have as Christians. He sees and acknowledges our personal struggles, sadness, anxiety, fear, worries, disappointment. Everything that has happened to us. Everything that has not yet happened. He looks at you, right into your eyes, and sees your pain. Right there, in that pain, he offers paradise.

“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:4).

He has just promised us suffering and persecution. Now he says, “Ask…that your joy will be full.”

Immediately, this tells us how little joy has to do with our circumstances. Happiness is unrelated to one’s finances, health, fortune and luck. These bring fleeting happiness, but leave you hanging. Christ is talking about something else.

“Aἰτεῖτε καὶ λήμψεσθε, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη.”

“Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

He is describing joy of the greatest kind — πεπληρωμένη joy — full and overflowing joy — the joy the psalms describe as the stream that flows from God into his heavenly kingdom (Ps. 46:4) — eternal, vivacious joy — sweet wine of living water (Nehemiah 8:10).

How can we find this joy?

The joy is in the asking, he says. More succinctly, the joy is in how we ask.

“Ask in my Name…Ask…that your joy will be full.”

The english muddles up the meaning in this scripture. In Greek, it more literally says, Ask in the manner that leads to true joy. Pray, seek, hunger in the right way — then you will find the joy.

This is the whole spiritual life: we have to kindle our desire for God.

Here is how St. Peter says it in his epistle: “Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).

“Crave pure spiritual milk.”

ἐπιποθήσατε - ‘Crave’

It comes from two Greek words: potheo means ‘yearning;’ epi is an intensifier — passionate yearning. Yearn for God the way a baby yearns for his mother’s milk. There is nothing sweet and pious about a hungry baby hankering for milk. It is the first thing my baby says when she wakes up: “Eat!” In less than 30 seconds she is screaming it: “Eat!” You should see her face. Genghis Khan could not furrow his brows with as much intensity and demand as my baby when hungry. Mama shows up, the baby bounds to her breast like a ferocious tiger to the kill. This is the way scripture tells us to desire.

What should we crave? Pure spiritual milk.

ἄδολον: ‘Pure,’ ‘unadulterated,’ ‘having nothing watered down,’ ‘untinged by anything cheap or vain.’

λογικὸν: literally, that which is ‘spiritual’ or ‘rational’ — but it implies much more, the ‘logos,’ the wisdom of God, the rhythm breathed into creation in the beginning, calling creation into an unceasing adoration of God.

γάλα: milk — sweet, creamy, life-giving milk. The Hebrews travelled 40 years in the desert to find the land of “milk and honey.” From China to Persia, the luxurious life always meant plenty of cream. A bowl was discovered in an Egyptian tomb from 2700 B.C. which, some hypothesize, is the oldest ice cream bowl. It is universal. Nothing satisfies a hunger crave as rich, nourishing cream.

“Crave pure spiritual milk.”

“Ask…[in the manner] that your joy may be complete.”

What is lacking in our life? It is simple. We do not have enough desire, and we do not desire the right thing. We crave nearly everything else under the sun and wonder why we are always frustrated. All along, we can have the joy of paradise if we can only redirect our desire to the right place.

“Crave pure spiritual milk.”


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