Aug. 18, 2018

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2018

THE WISDOM OF THE BLESSED EUCHARIST

Readings: 1st- Prov. 9:1-6; 2nd- Eph. 5:15-20; Gospel- John 6:51-58

The gospel of today continues with the discourse on the Blessed Eucharist in the sixth chapter of John which we have been reading for the past few weeks. Jesus says clearly, “I am the bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He presents us with his body and blood as the source of life and highlights its eternal benefit; “whoever eats this bread will live forever”. 

The image of Jesus as the bread from heaven doesn’t go well with his listeners. The Jews are angry with him. They quarrel among themselves regarding his saying. Their question is why should a man like Jesus give them his flesh to eat. They lack understanding. They rely on the physical. They wonder how they would eat the flesh of the one they know. They are devoid of eternal wisdom. The reactions of the Jews prompted Jesus to reinforce the spiritual value of the Eucharist; “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn. 6:54). 

Wisdom means to recognize that the Blessed Eucharist is real food and real drink. When Jesus presents his body and blood as real food, he distinguishes it from the food that we eat and still get hungry or the drink that we consume and get drunk. Jesus contrasts it with the food that the Israelites ate in the desert, “Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:58). It is important to recognize that Jesus didn’t condemn the manna that the Israelites ate in the desert. He didn’t discard that either. The manna can be seen as the food that nourished the people as they traveled to the Promised Land. Jesus points its limitations as temporal food intended to sustain only for a lifetime, and states, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” This is the impression which Saint Paul tries to create in the second reading by inviting the community to recognize how they live. Paul states, “Watch how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15) 

Two things are implied here: We are invited to live as wise persons. Then, we are enjoined to make the most of the opportunity that God has given us in the Blessed Eucharist. Our “days are evil,” says the apostle Paul. In these evil days, therefore, it is the wisdom that comes from the Eucharist that will sustain believers. The unwise live a life of debauchery. The unwise abuse the food and drinks that God has given for our nourishment. They get drunk. The evil days are characterized by consumerism, absolute dependence on the stomach. Saint Paul challenges us not to succumb to unwise and ignorant lifestyle that revels in sin but to embrace the wisdom that comes from the Eucharist- “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” (Eph. 5:17-20)

That is the Wisdom that was spoken of in the first reading and which invites us to the Eucharist. The book of Proverbs recounts, “Wisdom has built herself a house and has set up her seven columns.” Wisdom is completeness and perfection. Wisdom extols the life that endures forever. Wisdom invites us to, “Come and eat of my food, and drink of my wine,” a prefigurement of the Eucharistic meal. Wisdom invites us to shun foolishness and to embrace understanding in the days marked by evil and iniquity. Wisdom tells us, “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” That is the meaning of the Holy Communion.

The Catechism teaches that “at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine, that by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood” (CCC 1333). That is the true food that Christ offers us to eat and to drink. As believers, our communion with Jesus gives us the eternal benefits of the food that is his body and blood. Each time we receive this Body and Blood, we enter into Holy Communion with Christ, the Word made flesh who came to dwell among us. To enter into communion with Christ means that we avoid the temptations of the evil days and embrace the true life of Christ.

We all know that the days seem evil even for the church with the recent happenings. Permit me to read out to you this Declaration of Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office-re: Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

“Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow. The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors. 

The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur. 

Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements. 

The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirt of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.

Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.” 

Let us embrace the wisdom of the Blessed Eucharist and ask our Lord to help his Church. May the Blessed Eucharist cleanse us of our sins. May the Holy Communion inspire in us genuine love for one another. May the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ grant us eternal life. Amen.