Twentieth Sunday: Bread of Life

St. Dominic, Fra Angelico

St. Dominic, Fra Angelico

PRV 9:1-6; PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; EPH 5:15-20; JN 6:51-58

This past Sunday was the culmination of our reading from John 6, the Bread of Life discourse.  There will be one more concluding week of our tour through this discourse, but this is the height.

Now, there’s a small danger for Catholics when we read John 6.  We can get stuck in apologetics.  Yes, apologetically, John 6 is a nice place to go if we want to prove to non-Catholics that Jesus really does want us to eat his real flesh and drink his real blood.  And there are times for that conversation, for proving that our faith is indeed the Biblical faith.

The danger is that we reduce our faith to winning arguments, reduce our faith in the Eucharist to another way to say other people are wrong.  The danger is that we can fail to draw life from the Eucharist, and from Scripture, because we’re so busy trying to win arguments.

Pope Benedict said, “the only true apologetic is the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty.”  Thomas Aquinas actually says something similar.  A key argument of this web page is that the intellect is part of our faith – because the intellect is part of contemplation, not because it is an instrument of winning arguments.  Let us focus on being made holy.

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Jesus says in this Sunday’s reading, “the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  To really understand the Eucharist, we have to understand not just that it is Jesus’s body, but what it means to draw life from it.  If it does not make us part of his body, we do not really know what it means to say it is his body.

Jesus uses one of John’s favorite words, “remain” (also translated “dwell”).  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  We dwell within him, and he within us, when we receive communion.  We practice this at adoration – but we dwell with him by eating him.

And finally, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  When we go forth after Mass, it is like the Son going forth from the Father, full of the life he received, and bringing that life to the world.

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Our short reading from Proverbs again emphasizes the contemplative element, the enlightenment we receive from communion.  “Wisdom has built her house . . . she has spread her table. . . . To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”

Just as John calls Jesus the Logos, the Word of the Father, God’s intelligence and wisdom, so here the one who feeds us is Divine Wisdom, and what she feeds us is understanding.

We enrich the images we just saw in John 6.  We dwell in the house of the Father and the Son, and from dwelling there, we receive their wisdom.  We are sent out full of that wisdom – the Eucharist penetrates to the way that we see the world.

And so our reading concludes, “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.”  We live differently – we have new life within us – because our perspective is changed from this deepest form of contemplation, Eucharistic communion.

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But again, the deepest wisdom of the week is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

First, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.”  Ah: live by that wisdom we receive in the Eucharist, from dwelling in the house of the Father and the Son.

“Making the most of the opportunity,” he adds, “because the days are evil.”  If it were up to me, we’d maybe read the King James Bible, a Protestant translation with imperfections, but very literal and such rich language.  Not “making the most of the opportunity” but “redeeming the time.”  What rich language!

We are called to be redeemers.  Literally, it means “buying back” each day, purchasing it for God, by bringing his divine wisdom into it.  Transforming the evil days into the time of Christ.  That’s what we are sent forth from communion to do.

And, as we saw last week, we are to “be filled with the Spirit,” but he adds, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”  As God’s Wisdom, God’s Love, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us through communion, we should become living hymns of praise, “giving thanks [in Greek, eucharist-ing] always and for everything.”

How could you draw deeper life from the Eucharist as you go forth into the world?

 

 

eric.m.johnston

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