Twentieth Sunday of the Year August 16, 2009

Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

Wisdom has set a table and has invited us to partake in the meal. Our invitation to the banquet, demands that we replace immaturity with spiritual insight. It would indeed be baffling except that through these experiences an awareness involves.  A person becomes aware that there is a subtle wisdom guiding events in the world.  It obviously is not our wisdom. All those who seem to be winners and have succeeded in everything seem to be walking out.  When we see a priest who is marvelous with the sick, or small children or good at his sermons, his class mates remember how he was as a student or seminarian, ordinary or brilliant. The unsuited couple sometimes becomes a wonderful set of parents. Things that seem so ordinary seem to become extra ordinary in natural situations. The book of proverbs tells us with the gentle words, let whoever be simple turn in here.  God’s wisdom has all things worked out and he uses the simple and the ordinary persons to surprise the wise. In the Gospel Jesus also sets a table for the meal. His menu consists of his own body and blood.  Many persons who are immature and are not able to see the real Jesus who is sharing himself, get up and leave him totally.  They no longer want to be part of his life and mission and hence of the messianic banquet.   It needs a deep insight and grace to accept his invitation.  The recognition and faith bring us closer to Jesus and to his Eucharistic banquet.  It is important that we listen to his call and accept  his invitation to be in communion with him.

Today’s three readings that were just heard from the Holy Scriptures can be summarised in a few simple words: “Be in full communion with God and the Church.”  It is the desire of every human person to be in communion with the ultimate.  To be in full communion with God means to obey the commandments of God so that you may be in perfect harmony in your daily personal relationship with Him.  In the context of the Church full communion means to obey the teachings of the Church that has been instituted on earth through Jesus. It also means that, as the Church is obligated to relate the teachings of Christ to the people so they may know the ways of the Lord God, the faithful too are obligated by their baptismal promise to live their faith in Christ according to the teachings of the Church.

First Reading of today speaks to us in a  symbolic way about the Divine Wisdom. Wisdom is symbolised as a special image seen as a house constructed with seven pillars. She has prepared a magnificent banquet and then sent out her servants to call all those who are ignorant, who lack wisdom, asking them to come, eat of the bread and drink of the wine. The one who responds is called upon to lay aside immaturity and live and walk in the way of wisdom and insight.  In other words, God is establishing His Kingdom on earth as in Heaven and invites all to be part of it. This earthly Kingdom is the mystical body of Christ. The number seven is symbolic of perfection. God’s perfection is seen through the Church, a reflection of the invisible mystical Body of Christ. Our perfection is found through our participation in the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.  Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we worship God in spirit and truth.  For the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. God’s perfection is seen through the Church, which is a reflection of the invisible mystical Body of Christ. Our perfection is found through our participation in the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we worship God in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. This was a prophetic and symbolic reference to Christ instituting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist on the night of the Last Supper.

The Second Reading of today urges us not to be foolish but to be wise. Saint Paul speaking to the Ephesians’ community says, “Brothers and sisters, be careful 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.” Knowing the will of the Lord and applying it, are two different things. It is no different than having mere words without any actions. Those who believe in Christ must apply the love of Christ towards God and others through their actions.  The children of God are called to be filled with the Spirit, to continuously praise God in all things, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among themselves. They are called to sing and make music to the Lord in their hearts, showing gratitude to the Father at all  times and for everything in the Name of Jesus Christ. It is when we are filled with the Flesh and Blood of Christ that we are filled with true wisdom. Wisdom is to know what the will of God is in my own life situation. Wisdom is to know what are the real values in life. Wisdom is to know how to live a life that is fully-functioning. It is suggested that the only real high that we should ever pursue is that of wisdom. The letter ends with the words of praise and thanksgiving: “Sing the words and tunes of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, so that always and everywhere you are giving thanks to God who is our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The theme of the Gospel of today is Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus had already promised the people that whoever eats of this bread will live forever. He is their nourishment and strength. But now a startling new dimension is added: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” It means that he is ready to give himself to them. Hence the immediate reaction of the people out of dismay and alarm to say “How can this man  Jesus give us his flesh to eat?” They are not able to understand the very meaning of it. In the Israelite tradition there is no mention of human sacrifice or cannibalism.  Nevertheless, Jesus goes even further to say: “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.”  We have heard these Gospel words so often. We have seen the priest lift up the host and heard him say, this is my Body…take this, All of you and Eat it and this is the cup of my Blood.  We have seen and heard these words so many times and are so familiar with them that we simply do not react any more. But we must think of being there with Jesus on that day and hear those words of Jesus when he says unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life.

To eat the flesh of Jesus and to drink his blood is to become totally identified with his very person, with his deepest thoughts, with his vision of life, with his values, and with his mission to build the Kingdom of God. Here again Jesus brings in the concept of the total identity with the divinity with the sharing in the meal during a sacrifice. We have here something more to believe in. The flesh and blood of Jesus was, above all, that part of him which he totally surrendered in his suffering and death and offered it to his Father. This is John’s way of putting the Synoptic passage that: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the Gospel will save it.”  Jesus is here calling us to follow him, to be with him to share totally and unconditionally his mission life and destiny. In this context if we are totally identified with Jesus and his mission, it is always possible.

We are now reminded of the miracle of the multiplication of bread where the five thousand and more people were fed along with the fish the boy had, tells us of the Last Supper and thus of the Eucharist. The sharing of one bread and one cup brings in the unity, the contract between Jesus and humankind. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus linked his flesh with the bread he broke and shared it with his disciples and linked his blood with the cup that was passed around, the blood that was the pledge of an unbreakable bond between Jesus and his people. In eating the Bread and drinking from the Cup we are proclaiming our deepest desire to be totally identified with Jesus, with his Way, with his Mission to building the Kingdom.

Jesus identified himself as the Bread of Life. He says: “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.” Let us look into ourselves and see whether we are in full communion with God and his Church. It is essential for us to listen to Jesus and put his teaching into practice. There’s a story of a Italian male porn star who was being interviewed by a reporter. The porn star had gone to the Catholic University of Milan and many asked him if he had felt uncomfortable there. The actor said that, on the contrary, he loved it there and had some great courses. He described his favorite course, given by a famous ethics professor. The actor described how he sat in the front row, took great notes, asked questions and faced the final exam. The reporter thought it might be an interesting to interview that professor for the story. She asked the professor if he remembered his now-famous student. The professor replied, “He was never my student.” The reporter replied, “But he said he sat in the front row, used to ask questions, and did superbly in the final exam.” “That is all true, but he was never my student,” the professor retorted. The professor then clarified: “To be a student means to do more than attend some lectures and give the teacher back what the teacher taught. Especially in an ethics class, to be a student means to put what the teacher says INTO PRACTICE and that man was NEVER my student as he never put things into practice.”

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