St. Kateri Tekakwitha


Our Deepest Yearning:

Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

(Acts 8:1-8; Ps 66; Jn 6:35-40)


Karl Rahner famously stated: “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we finally learn that here in this life all symphonies must remain unfinished.” That raises the question, “What is your unfinished symphony? What is your deepest yearning?”

The readings today provide both an answer, and how to fulfill that yearning: we are yearning for nothing less than eternal life, and we share in that life by doing the will of the Father – believing in Jesus as the Bread of Life and living in the hope of resurrection.

Ron Rolheiser adds this insight into our longing, based on our human nature, to that quote from Rahner: The word sex has a Latin root, the verb sectare. In Latin, sectare means “to cut off,” “to sever,” “to amputate,” “to disconnect from the whole.” To be sexed, therefore, literally means to be cut off from, to be severed from, to be amputated from the whole. We wake up in the world, and in every cell of our being we ache, consciously and unconsciously, sensing that we are incomplete . . . aching at every level for a wholeness that, at some dark level, we know we have been separated from.

Ever since Monday, the gospel began with the words, “After Jesus fed the crowds…” There is here a hint that the crowds were longing for something more, but unfortunately, they were stuck in thinking something physical (baked bread, possessions, prestige, pleasure, power, material things) could satisfy them.

Jesus tries to correct that misguided notion and lead them into a new awareness of their own reality, their own longing. As humans, we are an unfinished symphony, and only seeing God, our creator, face to face will ever satisfy that deepest yearning of our hearts. Even St. Augustine took years of wandering in a wasteland of a prodigal lifestyle, having a mistress, begetting a child, and experimenting with different philosophies before he could articulate his well-known phrase: “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in thee.”

Jesus is very straightforward and firm in his teaching. He uses the same “Ego Eimi” that God the Father used with Moses to identify God’s self – “I Am.” Jesus proclaims clearly in a similar way, “I am the Bread of Life” who alone can satisfy that deepest thirst and hunger of the human soul.

That thirst is actually for the very life of God – an intimate relationship with God, an experience of being totally loved and accepted as one is, a sense of one’s own infinite value and worth apart from anything one might have done, that all will be well in the end. We yearn for a sense of fully belonging, of a life filled with meaning and purpose, lived with serenity and characterized by an irrepressible joy.

Our task is to put our total faith and trust in Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Word made Flesh, Risen Lord and Bread of Life. It is to come to him for forgiveness of all our sins, and healing of all shortcomings. It is to follow him through the pattern of living to the full he gave us – his passion, death and resurrection.

That is the will of the Father, and the result will be experiencing the very life Jesus shares with the Father through their Spirit poured into hearts, here and now – in short, living within the reign of God.

It is this experience of eternal life that animated the early followers of Jesus, the early church, and propelled them out, even when persecuted, to spread the good news that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the world. How ironic that the despised Samaritans were quick to believe the message of Philip and experience the healing and joy of this new reality, when the Jewish leaders who were prepared over the centuries for this, rejected it and missed out on this whole new way of life.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Although not a martyr, today we honour someone who lived that kind of faith – St. Kateri Tekakwitha. The first North American Indigenous woman to be canonized, Kateri is often called the Lily of the Mohawks. She was born in 1656, on the southern bank of the Mohawk River at Osserneon (Auriesville, NY). Her mother was a Christian Algonquin from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, and her father a non-Christian Mohawk Turtle clan chief. When Kateri was four years old, a small pox epidemic killed her parents and her brother, leaving her with seriously impaired eyesight and a disfigured face. What she could not see with her physical eyes, she saw with the eyes of her soul into the mysteries of her faith.

Inspired by Jesuit missionaries from an early age, Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday 1676 and assumed the name Kateri, likely in honour of Saint Catherine of Sienna. The following year, due to persecution in her community, Kateri escaped to Kahnawake on the St Lawrence River opposite Tiohtiake (Montreal). She had a strong devotion to the Eucharist, a deep concern for others and spent hours praying in the woods. She died on April 17, 1680 and was canonized in 2012. Those present at her death witnessed her scarred face being miraculously healed and transformed into her original beauty.  Kateri is patron saint of ecology, those who have lost their parents, and World Youth Day.

The Eucharist is an act of deep faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life and touches upon a completed symphony of life. We are nourished by the Word of God, forgiven and healed by the body and blood of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and thus given a share in eternal life.

May our celebration empower us to go out like Philip, to announce to the world this Good News of this whole new way of life, eternal life, that is offered to us as a gift of faith.


Updated: April 17, 2024 — 12:21 am

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