The Bishops Homily – 20th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2018

20th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle B |  19/08/18
Prov. 9: 1 – 6
Eph. 5: 15 – 20
John 6: 51 – 58

INTRODUCTION: Our extended reading of John 6 comes to a climax today with vv. 51-58. Our 1st and 2nd readings from Proverb and Ephesians respectively prepare us for a deeper understanding of John 6.

(1) In Proverb God’s Wisdom is personified as a woman preparing a banquet. She lays out the finest food and drink and lavishly invites everyone. “She has sent out her maidens from the heights out over the city.” This is the graciousness of the divine invitation. How typically biblical this theme is.

In other religions and spiritualities, the stress is placed on man’s quest for God. For God is imagined as a difficult Figure, hard to please and out of reach, unwilling to share his life. Thomas Merton calls this “the Promethean problem of religion.” Biblical Religion is the exact opposite. There is none of the Promethean problem. God is described in the Bible as incomparably generous, eager to offer what he has to the world.

Spirituality is the willingness to come to the Feast. Religion is not so much about begging for food as the willingness to come and enjoy the food God is lavishly offering. “Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Now to be sure you have to turn away from other sources of food, if you want to enjoy the heavenly banquet. “Forsake foolishness that you may live.”

Stop feeding on things that will never satisfy you. Eat the banquet that God has prepared and lavishly laid before you. That is Biblical Religion. We spend our whole life looking for food that will never fill up our hunger (power, wealth, pleasure). Turn away from the junk food for the soul and eat from the banquet that has been lavishly laid out for us.

(2) Paul expresses the same idea in the 2nd reading from his magnificent Letter to the Ephesians. “Do not get drunk on wine in which lies debauchery but be filled with the Spirit.” Much of our quest for happiness in the goods of this world is a disguised quest for God. Very important truth for anyone involved in pastoral ministry!

We get to all sorts of things obstinately seeking for God. “Don’t get drunk on wine. Be filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit offers freely and all we have to do is to take it freely. All these two readings are a preparation for the Gospel.

(3) Jesus is described in the Prologue of this Gospel as the Word made Flesh. Thus the Divine Wisdom, the Word, becomes incarnate; has pitched his tent among us becoming one of us. John 6 now endeavors to feed us his people with his own self body and blood. Now the deepest meaning of food in Proverb is made clear.

The free food God is preparing is finally nothing but his own flesh. Wisdom wants us to feed on his own very self. What an extraordinary claim being made here that stands right at the heart of our Catholic Christian Faith: Wisdom of God wants us to feed on himself. “I am the living bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

The Fathers of the Church used to elaborate on this theme. If you want eternal life, you have to become eternalized. The Eucharist is the food that fits us for life in the heavenly realm. Like in scuba-diving or in space walk, one has to wear the right suit to breath under water or walk on the moon.

Now the crowd hears Jesus’ words and are confused. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? This objection reflects the Jewish prohibition of eating animal flesh; how much more on eating human flesh? This gives him now every opportunity for symbolic speech but Jesus does not accept the challenge. On the contrary, he robs it in, “Amen, Amen I say to you unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, has eternal life . . . For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”

CONCLUSION: What Jesus says is. That is the Eucharist! That is the whole of Biblical Religion: Come and eat what God has laid out for you!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches