20th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Take and Eat, This is my Body.”
‘The readings of today are on the theme of food that gives us life’.
The first is a beautiful ‘parable’ of a lady who offers food to the ‘inexperienced’. This ‘wisdom’ is the word of God that all of us are invited to make our own and to translate into our lives.
The second reading completes our catechesis for this Sunday. It invites us to live in accordance with the ‘Wisdom’ of God in whatever difficult situations we may find ourselves.
The Gospel tells us about the ‘Wisdom’ that comes from God and nourishes us with the Body and Blood of Christ. By listening to him we can understand what God wants to tell us. By eating him that is by identifying with his person we achieve eternal life.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
The book of Proverbs is not one of the Old Testament books that we hear from often in the Sunday liturgy. In fact, there are only three readings from Proverbs over the whole of the three-year cycle. The book of Proverbs seems to be a choice of short statements and passages made up of several collections of general truths drawn from principles, rules of conduct and experience. Some parts of it may go back to the time of Solomon in the tenth century B.C., after the Jews had returned from their exile in Babylon. The purpose of this book of the Bible is to inculcate wisdom and to provide a guide to successful living. In its biblical sense, wisdom consists in knowing and acting on the way things really are, the way God made them to be.
Wisdom was held in high esteem by Israel, as well as by all ancient peoples. A person of great experience was considered much more highly than the rich and the powerful, because he could quote proverbs, propose riddles, solve puzzles and give wise advice. A wise man was in particular one who knew and taught the ‘Law of the Lord’: the Commandments of God were the “wise paths” one had to follow to obtain success in life and achieve happiness.
The reading of today is part of a longer poem that offers a contrast between wisdom and foolishness. Each is presented as a woman, presumably to suggest attractiveness: authentic beauty in the case of Lady Wisdom, and false and superficial charm in the case of Dame Folly. Our reading consists of verses from the first part of the poem, the part that deals with wisdom. The author imagines Wisdom to be like a royal and beautiful woman who has a magnificent palace with a wonderful dining hall in which she organizes a great feast: she prepares a lot of meat and good wine, covers the tables with cloths and sends her maidservants to call her guests. Who are to be her guests? Who is supposed to hurry to her palace? The simple and the ignorant are unhappy because they do not possess the wisdom of life and ruin their existence by behaving foolishly. There are people who seem to cause only problems and disasters, and who learn nothing from experience. Don’t we ourselves know many such people; perhaps even ourselves may fit the latter description? Don’t we have in our communities people who just spend their time getting drunk, fornicating and provoking others?
Is there any hope for them? It is to these people that the maidservants bring the invitations to share in the banquet. The only condition to be allowed in is that they should be ‘hungry’ and ‘poor’ and acknowledge their need to be instructed in the ways of life. This feast is not for the rich. The rich are satisfied and convinced that by their wealth they already possess the secret of happiness and life. How wrong they are!
Why don’t more choose the invitation to Wisdom? Perhaps younger people have been led to believe that being drunk, doped up, or on the wrong side of the law is a cool place to be. Adults get no gold stars here either. They have been persuaded that power, sex, wealth and prestige is where it’s at. Perhaps we have to sacrifice our popularity and worldly image in the cause of Wisdom. But it’s not a bad choice, considering that if you choose Folly, you forfeit everything.
The Proverbs reading speaks of the acquisition of wisdom as a banquet. We Christian believers speak of the Eucharist as a banquet. Taking part in the life of Christ through the Eucharist constitutes life, even as Wisdom constitutes life. The Eucharist, Wisdom, and the life of Jesus, eternal life for each of us: they all overlap in great abundance. If the Wisdom literature offered the secret of life, how much more true is it to say that he or she who receives Jesus with faith has the secret to everlasting life!
Psalm 34:2-3, 9-14.
The Psalm is a continuation of last week’s song of thanksgiving. Now Wisdom addresses her children, and in a very simple theology, identifies prosperity with piety. Strong lions may starve to death but the one who listens to Wisdom need want for nothing.
Ephesians continues its exhortation to Christian living. Following Jewish wisdom tradition, the author urges his readers to recognize the needs of the times and to discern in them the will of God.
Theirs was to be a community full of life, but life that came from the Holy Spirit rather than from excess of wine (Acts. 2:15). Their worship was to involve the talents of each one, particularly in music and in song (1Cor. 14:26).
Theirs was to be a worship that never ceased, continuing in the silence of their hearts. The whole of their lives was to be adoration and sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1). They were to live out their conviction that God is above all and through all and in all, One who brings all things together in Christ.
Jesus fed the people and spoke about a more important bread coming down from heaven. Now Jesus affirms clearly that the life-giving bread he has been speaking about is himself. He invites those who are listening to him to eat his flesh and drink his blood that they might live now and be raised up on the last day.
This is the decisive moment in Jesus’ speech. His words are so shocking and challenging that the people have to decide whether to continue to follow him or to leave him altogether. Jesus insists forcefully on the need to eat his body and drink his blood. How do the people respond? How do we today respond?
There are many misunderstandings in John’s Gospel between Jesus and his hearers. Jesus speaks in symbols; his listeners take his words literally. They think he is inviting him to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood, which would be cannibalism. In fact, through the powerful image of the eating of his body, Jesus is inviting us to enter into a deeper relationship with him. Eating is a sign of communion. We don’t sit down to a meal with enemies. We invite people to eat with us to celebrate our friendship with them. Jesus invites people for a meal because he wants to celebrate the love and unity that exists between him and them. Jesus tells us that the food is his body.
Now, for the Old Testament it was normal to eat part of the animal killed in sacrifice. Eating an animal that was sacrificed to God meant entering into communion with God. “Are not those who eat the sacrifices, partners in the altar?” (1 Cor. 10:18), asks St. Paul. To eat a sacrifice offered to God is to renew our communion and covenant with God. The flesh of Jesus is Jesus himself, his whole person.
When the Israelites offered sacrifices they ate the flesh, but did not drink the blood. Blood is life, and life belongs to God. When God made his covenant with the people of Israel, Moses slaughtered the animals and then took half of the blood and spilled it on the altar and on the people. This was to show that both the people and God committed themselves to each other for life. To eat in God’s presence is to seal the covenant, the blood pact between God and his people.
When Jesus invites us to eat his body, he wants us to enter into communion with him. Body and blood are life. Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, is to receive life. Jesus wants to dwell in all of us, and when he does we have a new life in us, the life of Jesus.
Every believer, every Christian can have the experience of Jesus living in them. It happens when we hand over to Jesus control of our lives. We are no longer guided by our own wills but by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us and inspires us. To receive the Eucharist means to be assimilated with Christ and to be identified with him. If we choose to become ‘one’ person with Christ in the sacrament, we must first accept his teachings, the Word of God.
During this second year in the Church’s three-year cycle, we spend four weeks contemplating the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in John’s Gospel. Each time, we have the opportunity to consider our own relationship with this gift from God. Those who would follow Jesus would share this Body and Blood and trade it for their own in persecution. If it cost us our lives to share in the Eucharistic meal, would we still partake?
When we hand over our life to Jesus and begin to live his life, great things happen to us!
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Wisdom was held in high esteem by the people of Israel. How important is the ‘Word of God’ in your life? Is your Bible packed away in the bookshelf or locked in the cupboard, or is your bookmark slotted in the pages that marked yesterday’s readings? Do you recognize and truly believe that the Bible is one of your greatest treasures? Our source of God’s Wisdom.
Mon. … The purpose of the ‘Book of Proverbs’ in the Bible is to provide us with a ‘guide to successful’ living. Its ‘Wisdom’ consists in knowing and acting on the way things really are, the way that God made them to be. All sacred Scripture and the Gospel is a guide through salvation history and hidden in its pages is the inspiration to a role that each one of us must play out our purpose in God’s plan. Why do we still resist in knowing its truths? Why do we still hide from it’s light?
Tues. … Lady Wisdom invites all of us today to share in her banquet she is having for the ‘poor’ and the ‘hungry’. Do we accept her invitation and choose this ‘acquisition of Wisdom’, the knowledge of God and his truth? It is our choice. But if we choose Folly, we forfeit the light and everything that is of God. If the Wisdom literature offered the secret of life, how much more true is it to say that he or she who receives Jesus with faith has the secret to everlasting life!
Wed. … St. Paul urges us all to recognize the needs of the times and to discern in them the will of God. This invitation gives us an opportunity to serve God in a special and unique way whilst serving the poor and the needy. “What you did to these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me”. There are many ways we can worship and adore God. The best way is to follow the ‘Way of Christ’ in everything we do. Meditate today on how you plan to serve God and your neighbour.
Thurs.… Taking part in the life of Christ through the Word, the Eucharist and the Sacraments constitutes life, as Wisdom constitutes life. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, we are being invited to share in more than just a sacred meal. Jesus is inviting us to enter into a deeper relationship with him, a permanent communion of love and unity. Let us today pray an ‘Act of Faith’ – a saying of Yes to Jesus’ way of life and a pledge to listen and live by his word.
Frid. … When Jesus invites us to his banquet he wants us to become ‘one’ in him. Receiving his Body and Blood is to receive ‘Life’; the new ‘Life’ in us is the life of Jesus. Do we truly yearn for this ‘new’ life or has it become just another ‘whatever’ in our lives?
Sat. … When we hand over to Jesus control of our lives, we are no longer misguided by our individual wills and passions and other forces, but by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us, inspires and leads us. We can still be tempted, but now we have the power of the Spirit living in us to aid us. If we choose to become ‘One’ in Christ in the Eucharist we must first accept his teachings, his Wisdom in the Word of God. Do we? Lastly, if it cost us our lives to share in the Eucharistic feast, would we still partake?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, help us to love you at all times and grant us the grace to hand over to Jesus control of our lives. May we follow him in the ‘Way’ to always do Your will. May the Wisdom in Your Scriptures and Your Gospel help us to find Your will for us in our journey of salvation.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.