20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 19, 2018

This Sunday’s Theme: The Eucharistic Celebration.

Reading 1 speaks about the wisdom of God in creating our Church and the Eucharist. The Gospel focuses upon Jesus giving bread (His Flesh and Blood) “for the life of the world” that we receive in the Eucharist. In Reading 2, Paul directs us to conduct our lives by way of God’s will for each of us.

Reading 1 – Proverbs 9:1-6     Wisdom has set a feast before us.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 34:2-7     A prayer of praise to God for His goodness.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 5:15-20     Filled with the Holy Spirit, Christians strive to follow the will of the Lord.

Gospel – John 6:51-58     Jesus teaches that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever.

Reading 1     Proverbs 9:1-6              (Divine Food and Drink)

Context – The Book of Proverbs is a compendium of moral and religious instruction as given to Jewish youth by professional sages in the post-exile period. Proverbs is the most typical example of a “wisdom” book in the Old Testament with its emphasis on: moral high probity (adherence to the highest principles and ideals) based on religion, its teaching that reward and punishment follow in this life, its appeal to the lessons of experience rather than to revelation, and its exploration of the nature of wisdom and of wisdom’s relation to God. (“Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history.) A follow-up to Proverbs is the Book of Sirach in the Apocrypha.
Today’s Reading – We are introduced to the personified wisdom of God, sometimes called Lady Wisdom. She has built herself a perfect house (church) with seven columns, seven being the biblical symbol for perfection. In her home, she prepares a lavish banquet of great foods and wines (the altar with the Eucharist), and invites (via the priests) all to come and partake.  All who come are guaranteed to “advance in the way of understanding.”

Wisdom (God) has built her house[i], she has set up her seven columns[ii]; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table (The Eucharist on the Altar). She has sent out her maidens[iii]; she calls from the heights out over the city: “Let whoever is simple (humble) turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding (one searching for the truth and acceptance), she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness (pride) that you may live (enjoy life and serve the Lord with gladness); advance in the way of understanding (follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit).”[iv]

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 34:2-7                        (Taste the Lord’s Goodness)

Today’s Psalm – The response “Taste and see” exhorts us to feast (trust, participate, involve yourself in) on the Lord and to advance in our understanding of His presence in our midst.

R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD
[v] at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly (humble) will hear me and be glad.[vi]
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD
[vii] with me, let us together extol (promote) His name. I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears[viii].
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to Him
[ix] that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the poor one (humble) called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress He saved him.[x]
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 

Reading 2     Ephesians 5:15-20               (Discern God’s Will)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – This reading harmonizes well with the wisdom theme found in Reading 1. Paul is strongly encouraging his readers to reject the way of foolishness and to embrace the path of wisdom which seeks to discover God’s will and sing His praises.

Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise[xi], making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil[xii]. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord[xiii]. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit[xiv], addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything[xv] in the Name of[xvi] our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Gospel     John 6:51-58                                 (Need for Communion)

Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading – In summary: Jesus Himself is the bread sent by God; Jesus’ flesh is the bread that is given for the life of the world.
Among the stumbling blocks for those who heard but did not understand Jesus, is the teaching that the bread that Jesus will give is His own flesh. In response to the people who quarreled over His words, Jesus teaches with even greater emphasis that salvation comes to those who eat His Body and Blood. To many ears, Jesus’ words are jarring and difficult to hear. Many who heard Jesus could not accept what He said. Many today continue to struggle to accept these words. But they are important words because they reveal our intimate connection with Jesus.
This is the mystery that is at the heart of our eucharistic theology. In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are made truly present. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus Himself comes to dwell within us. This communion with the Lord makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s body for the life of the world.

Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the Living 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.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “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. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. 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. This is the Bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate [the manna from heaven] and still died, whoever eats this Bread will live forever.”[xvii]

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          

Catechism 1373 – “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to His Church: in His word, in His Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in My name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which He is the Author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the Person of the Minister. But “He is present … most especially in the Eucharistic species.”

Catechism 1376 – The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the Holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” 

Catechism 1384 – The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Wisdom has built her house” = “House” is the Church. Here we may receive all Godly instruction, the seven sacraments, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Fear of the Lord, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, counsel, and courage.)
[ii]  “seven columns” = “Seven” to the Jews indicated perfection.
[iii]  “sent out her maidens” = The “maidens” are the pastors of the church, inviting all of us to piety.
[iv]  “advance in the way of understanding” = The parallel between wisdom and walking in God’s ways (Godliness) is clear in this passage. Jesus is “the Way”.
[v]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“I will bless the Lord” = I will thank the Lord and honor His name by an exclamation of gratitude and admiration to Him, from the depths of my soul, for His works and His blessings that show His love for us.
[vi] “the lowly (humble) will hear me and be glad” = We will learn the Godly truth and be able to live it.
[vii]  “Glorify the Lord” = This happens when we show our faith (obedient belief), hope and trust in Him by our character, conduct, and conversation.
[viii]  “delivered me from all my fears” = He helps me to stay in my walk with Him by His guidance, patience, and forgiveness when I stumble.
[ix] “Look to Him” = Look to Him by faith and good works.”
[x] “When the poor one (humble) called out … He saved him.” = What then should hinder us from addressing our prayers to God and trusting in His response to them?
[xi]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“a wise person” = The wise person is one who views and sees things the way God does.
[xii] “the days are evil” = This refers to what has occurred in the day. Some of the things that occur in it are good, as they are enabled by God. Some are bad, because they are brought about by evil desires and deeds on the part of we humans.
[xiii]  “the will of the Lord” = The first meaning of the will of the Lord is: It is God’s sovereign control of all things – His “sovereign will” or His “will of decree.” It cannot be broken. It always comes to pass. The other meaning of “the will of the Lord” is His “will of command.” It is what He commands us to do but by our own Free Will (or by our ignorance of His will), we either obey or disobey God. This passage of Reading 2, is in reference to the second definition of “the will of the Lord” – that is, God’s will of command. Through wisdom we learn and understand “the will of the Lord” and by our obedience to Him, we carry out “His commands”.
[xiv]  “be filled with the Holy Spirit” = “One drunk with wine sways and stumbles. But one who is filled with the Holy Spirit has solid footing in Christ. This is a fine drunkenness, which produces even greater sobriety of mind”. (Saint Ambrose)
[xv]  “always giving thanks” = It is possible to be thankful in all things when we recognize that God is at work in our lives for His glory and our good. When God controls us, we are thankful. This is certainly difficult to do in hard times.
[xvi]  “in the Name of” = This means: By the authority of; As the representative of; Supported by.
[xvii]  Gospel Footnotes:
“whoever eats this Bread will live forever” = There is similarity here between the “Tree of Life” in the Garden of Eden, which bore the fruit of immortality, and “Jesus, the Bread of Life” which Catholic Tradition calls the “medicine of immortality”.