Augustine explains how it is that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. He uses psalms 36 & 37 along with the fourth beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,” to show that those who are drawn to Christ are attracted by their spiritual palate, by delight & desire of the heart in the justice, truth and eternal life to be found fully in Christ.
No one comes to me unless the Father draws him. [Jn. 6:44]
Do not think that you are drawn against your will; the will is drawn also by love. We must not be afraid of men who weigh words but are far from understanding what belongs above all to divine truth. They may find fault with this passage of Scripture and say to us: “How can I believe of my own free will if I am drawn to believe?” I answer: “It is not enough that you are moved by the will, for you are drawn also by desire.”
Drawn by Desire of the Heart
What does this mean, to be drawn by desire? Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart [Psalm 37:4]. The heart has its own desires; it takes delight, for example, in the bread from heaven. The poet could say: “Everyone is drawn by his own desire,” not by necessity but by desire, not by compulsion but by pleasure. We can say then with greater force that one who finds pleasure in truth, in happiness, in justice, in everlasting life, is drawn to Christ, for Christ is all these things.
Delight in the Lord
Are our bodily senses to have their desires, but not the will? If the will does not have its desires, how can Scripture say: The children of men will find their hope under the shadow of your wings, they will drink their fill from the plenty of your house, and you will give them drink from the running stream of your delights, for with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we shall see light [Ps. 36:8].
Show me one who loves; he knows what I mean. Show me one who is full of longing, one who is hungry, one who is a pilgrim and suffering from thirst in the desert of this world, eager for the fountain in the homeland of eternity; show me someone like that, and he knows what I mean. But if I speak to someone without feeling, he does not understand what I am saying.
Longing of the Heart
You have only to show a leafy branch to a sheep, and it is drawn to it. If you show nuts to a boy, he is drawn to them. He runs to them because he is drawn, drawn by love, drawn without any physical compulsion, drawn by a chain attached to his heart.
“Everyone is drawn by his own desire.” This is a true saying, and earthly delights and pleasures, set before those who love them, succeed in drawing them. If this is so, are we to say that Christ, revealed and set before us by the Father, does not draw us? What does the soul desire more than truth? Why then does the soul have hungry jaws, a spiritual palate as it were, sensitive enough to judge the truth, if not in order to eat and drink wisdom, justice, truth, eternal life?
Hunger & Thirst for Justice
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, that is, here on earth. They shall be satisfied, that is, in heaven [Mat 5:8]. Christ says: I give each what he loves, I give each the object of his hope; he will see what he believed in, though without seeing it. What he now hungers for, he will eat; what he now thirsts for, he will drink to the full. When? At the resurrection of the dead, for I will raise him up on the last day.
This reflection on John 6:44 “no one can come to me unless the Father draws him” shows how we are drawn or attracted to Jesus Christ by the desire and longing of the heart. It is an excerpt from a treatise on John by Saint Augustine (Tract. 26, 4-6: CCL 36, 261-263). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Thursday of the 28th week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Zechariah 8:1-23.