20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 19th August, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

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

 

BREAD OF LIFE

In today’s first reading we meet lady Wisdom, a gracious hostess inviting not only her friends but all who can be found passing by to enjoy a lavish banquet in her spacious home.  Some interpreters suggest that the house of Wisdom is not just a banquet hall but a school where one may set aside foolishness and learn how to live.  The banquet image brings to mind at once Jesus’ use of it as a symbol for the Kingdom of God he had come to initiate; and also the various meals he shared with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ - the social and religious outcasts of his day.  The image also calls up the memory of his miraculous feeding of the crowds who followed him into a ‘desert place’ to listen to his teaching.

The responsorial psalm calls us as guests at this Eucharist to: ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’.  Within the Eucharistic ritual we taste God’s goodness first in the word we hear from the Scriptures; then, nourished by this word, by partaking of the very life of Jesus, the Word come amongst us, now present in the simple meal of bread and wine.

The Gospel continues reading from John 6.  Earlier in this complex chapter we hear Jesus tell the crowds that, unlike the ephemeral manna in the desert, ‘the true bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’.  The mind turns to the Prologue, which opens to us the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word who was God ‘from the beginning’; who became flesh and lived amongst us.  To those who were perhaps looking for another miracle Jesus identified himself more explicitly: ‘I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, those who believe in me will never thirst.’  And there is more: ‘whoever sees the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.’

To this point in the narrative scholars generally agree that Jesus is asking for faith in him as the way for his hearers to ‘do the works of God.’  He then introduces the image of eating and drinking his flesh and blood.  Offence is taken at this language, but to speak of one’s flesh and blood is a way of naming the whole person.  We have come to a clear pointer to the events of Holy Week and the Eucharist.

 

The faith Jesus hoped for on the hill in Galilee has been given to us by God as gift, setting us free to call God our Father.  In every Eucharist we recognise Jesus, as did the nameless couple at table in Emmaus, in the breaking and sharing of bread.  With Thomas in the upper room we greet him as ‘My Lord and my God!'

Mary Britt OP