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Glancing Thoughts
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year B
July 25, 2021
Eleonore Stump
What Do You Need?

The hand of the Lord feeds us, the Psalmist says; the Lord answers all our needs. In fact, the Psalmist says, the Lord satisfies the desire of every living thing.

Is the Psalmist blind? Or is he a shameless liar? The whole earth is soaked with the tears of the suffering. People don’t suffer when their desires are satisfied, and they don’t weep when their needs are met.

Even in our worst suffering, what we most greatly need and desire, the Lord himself, is always at hand for us.

But here we might pause to consider: what actually are our needs? If I say that I need red shoes to complement my outfit, are red shoes a need of mine? Ridiculous thought, isn’t it?

A need is something without which we cannot live, in one sense or another. But anybody can live without red shoes. Food, water, clothing, shelter—these are our needs, because without them we will die.

But these are not our only needs, are they? We need education, too. And that’s not nearly all. We need the beauty of nature and of art. And what are these to us if we can’t share them? We need company as well. We need love most of all.

And so we need more than food and shelter to live. We need truth and beauty, love and care, too. That is because there is more than one way to die. We can die in the body, but we can also die in our minds and hearts. A person adequately fed and sheltered but deprived of love will wither away.

In fact, the needs of the soul are primary. As long as they are met, even the death of the body cannot kill us. As the martyrs of the Church show us, a person can die in the body and still live, as long as his soul is nurtured and sheltered by the love of the Lord.

Our greatest need, then, is for the Lord himself; and our deepest desire is for him too. Whatever we get, we will drown in disappointment if we do not get him.

And that is why the Psalmist concludes by saying that the Lord is near to all who call upon him. Even in our worst suffering, what we most greatly need and desire, the Lord himself, is always at hand for us.

And so, in the sufferings of this world, our greatest need is met in the Lord. Through this life, the hand of the Lord will feed us until, finally, in the afterlife, we will want no more.

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go