“Emmanuel,” A Poem

by | Dec 23, 2021 | Advent, Catholic Writing, Christmas, Pop Culture, Spirituality

My first experience of Jesus as “Emmanuel” had nothing to do with Advent or Christmas. At least that is what it seemed like. On one of my annual eight-day silent retreats, I was following Jesus in His public ministry: healing, preaching, teaching. On our retreats, Jesuits use imaginative contemplation to enter deeply into the scriptures. I seem to notice something new each time I enter old passages. It was a familiar passage in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel that caught my attention this time: 

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias]. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do (John 6:1-6).

I quickly noticed Jesus’ reaction when He raised His eyes and saw the FIVE THOUSAND people who had followed them up the mountain: “Where can we buy enough food for them?” Jesus first thought upon seeing this huge crowd was, “they must be hungry.” As I started to think about it, I realized that Jesus does this tons of times in the Gospels. There are so many times when His first concern seems to be making sure His friends and followers have enough to eat. He seems so compassionately concerned with how hungry His people must be. This is Emmanuel. God WITH us. He is not merely physically located with us in the same space and time, but He is hungry with us. He knows our hunger just as we know it. And what is God’s response to our hunger? To feed us, even with His very self. As Jesus says later in the same chapter of John’s Gospel: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6: 35). 

Christmas is an unexpectedly perfect time to reflect on the countless ways God wants to feed us in our hunger. The more we come to understand the Incarnation, the more we will understand the Eucharistic nature of Christ. And the more we come to understand the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, the more we come to understand His incarnation. Let us joyfully welcome Emmanuel, born among livestock, laid in a feeding trough: God who comes to feed us with His very self.



God stoops down to House of Bread

   Of Virgin born in Bethlehem

         for He thinks

         They must be hungry.


Talitha kum, rise and live!

   Command to wake and eat He gives

         for He thinks

         She must be hungry.


Climbing up with eyes cast down

   He turns to see five thousand’s crowd

         and He thinks

         They must be hungry.


With His friends alone at last

   He knows the test shall come to pass

         and He thinks

         They must be hungry.


Death destroyed now finally

   He finds them fishing on the sea

         and He thinks

         They must be hungry.


Fish and bread and flesh and blood

   He feeds them always with His love

         for He thinks

         They must be hungry.


Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash.


Timothy Bishop, SJ

tbishopsj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Timothy