19th August. 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Prov 9:1-6. Wisdom has built her house, with seven pillars. We are invited to walk in the ways of wisdom.
Eph 5:15-20. The wise person makes the most of each passing day, alert to the will of God, and shaping our conduct accordingly.
Jn 6:51-58. Continuing Christ’s discourse on the Bread of Life. Those who eat his body and drink his blood (in the Eucharist) will be raiseed up on the last day.
Keeping it simple
(by Jim Mazzone)
When treating of the Holy Eucharist, Theology has often been embroiled in the controversy over transubstiation. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus keeps it simple for us. As preachers, sometimes it is good to simply respect and embrace the mystery and profundity of it all and continue to keep it simple. Here are the simple facts that Jesus communicates: Earthly bread sustains earthly life. It helps us grow. Heavenly bread sustains heavenly life. It also helps us grow. Jesus is that heavenly bread. When we ingest it we enjoy a special intimacy with Jesus. He literally abides in us.
This mystery can be dressed with some personal facts. With earthly food and drink we live. Outside of self-imposed fasts, or preparation for surgery, it is unlikely that any of us have been deprived of food for substantial periods of time. From the day we were born we have been eating food each day in order to sustain our earthly lives. We all know what hunger feels like, and we all know what kind of weakness and irritability accompanies that hunger.
Without earthly food we die. Although starvation and dehydration may not be part of our daily, observable surroundings, we know this is true. We see this fact reported on the nightly news when countries are hit with famine, droughts, and disasters. We see this fact reported when we learn of a person who is trapped in a space from which he can not be rescued in a timely manner.
Earthly food helps us grow. There are lots of stories to illustrate this fact in our personal lives: growth spurts, grocery bills from a household of teenage boys, and the intentional high protein intake of bodybuilders to name a few. Earthly food can produce great joy! we all have favorite foods, some of which are more nutritional than others; but the fact remains that when we ingest certain foods a kind of intimacy is enjoyed with that food that produces a satisfied, warm glow to our faces.
All of the above can be mirrored in our receiving the gift of Jesus, our Heavenly food that gives us heavenly (eternal) life. With our heavenly food we live forever. although we will all die an earthly death we will live forever. Without heavenly food we die. No heavenly food, no eternal life. Heavenly food helps us grow. The need for regular, earthly food intake to help us physically grow is paralleled to the need for the regular ingestion of heavenly to help us spiritually grow. Heavenly food can produce great joy! The reception of Jesus, our heavenly food, need not be an occasion for solemn, dreary faces. The experience is to be savored and enjoyed. The intimacy with this food can produce the same satisfied, warm glow that earthy food can yield.
Perhaps this is the weekend to keep it simple. If we do not we might find ourselves quarreling saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
2) When we eat this Bread.
(by Henry Wansbrough)
The most striking point about this Gospel is the brutal realism with which it speaks of eating the flesh of the Son of Man. The Greek is even more explicit, using a rough word which might be translated “chew” or even “tear at.” The wording has moved from the idea of accepting the Bread of Life by belief to receiving the Living Bread as food. This indicates a most important basic attitude to the Eucharist it is not the body of Christ to be adored or reverenced either in the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament or in the reception of it, but it is the body of Christ as food to be assimilated. This is not to say that adoration is not due to it, but it is to emphasise that the basic purpose of it is not so that it may rest but so that it may work. It is real food because it nourishes and transforms those who receive it. As with any food, of course, the beneficial effect it has is conditioned by the state of the recipient. If the recipient of normal food is diseased or unfit for that food, it will have a harmful effect. So in the case of the eucharistic food the recipient must have certain dispositions and will benefit according to the healthiness of those dispositions. Without faith there is no possibility of nourishment, as indeed is suggested by the whole of the previous discourse in John 6, where belief has been central and the Eucharist only peripheral. But, apart from the basic requirement of faith, the more affinity to Christ and desire to draw nearer and follow him, the more the nourishment provided by this food. If our desire is weak we receive little; if it is strong then we are opening ourselves to Christ’s full working.
It is important that, even in John, the context of his death is suggested. This is, of course, implied by the notion of eating his body, but is suggested more directly by the similarity of the phrase which occurs also at the last supper in the synoptic gospels (see COMMENTARY above.) So the context of sacrifice is directly built in to the Eucharist and to the Bread of Life itself, and by receiving it we submit ourselves, too, to his sacrifice. For the true disposition of nourishment we need therefore to commit ourselves entirely to the will of the Father, as Jesus did, in an act of open-ended and unreserved obedience.
But besides eating the flesh of the Son of Man in his sacrificial death, we also drink his blood. This notion may well seem even more crudely cannibalistic than the idea of eating his flesh. The ideas behind ritual cannibalism are not, of course, wholly foreign to the Christian eucharistic meal, for the purpose of primitive cannibalism was always to partake of the qualities, strength, courage, etc., of the victim. To the Jews especially the drinking of blood was abhorrent because the rules of kosher food prescribe that blood must always be let first, since it is sacred to the Lord, for it contains the life of a creature which belongs to God alone. In the case of Christ, then, by drinking his blood sacramental we are partaking of his life and intensifying his life in us. This sacramental reality is one reason why communion under both kinds is felt to be so significant. By the intensification of his life in us we may understand two things: firstly the life of the Spirit of Christ is strengthened in us, so that we are enabled more firmly to act according to the Spirit. Secondly, Christ’s life in us is, of its nature, eternal life, so it strengthens within us the life-principle which will carry us on into eternal life; he who eats Christ’s flesh lives in Christ and Christ in him, and he has already eternal life.
First Reading: Book of Proverbs 9:1-6
Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn herself seven pillars. She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, “You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Second Reading: Epistle to the Ephesians 5:15-20
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: John 6:51-58
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”