This week we celebrate the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time. The readings continue their reflection on the Holy Eucharist that began three Sundays ago. The first reading is taken from a description of a feast prepared and given by Wisdom, who is frequently personified in the scriptures as a woman. She calls on all those who pass by to partake of her feast so they may “live and advance in the way of understanding.” The second reading calls us to live as wise persons rather than foolish ones. It reminds us that living wisely means living in the Spirit of Christ. The Gospel reading continues with the theme of last week. Emphasis is now placed on the reality of the Eucharist as real food and drink. We need the life-giving presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in order to “remain in Him” so that “He will remain in us” and give us life eternal. A question raised in my mind by these readings is: How do I let the Holy Eucharist affect me? How deeply do I let myself enter into the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist and in my life?
First Reading: Proverbs 9:1-6
1 Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
2 She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
3 She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
4 “Let whoever is simple turn in here;
to him who lacks understanding, I say,
5 Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
6 Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.
NOTES on First Reading:
* Chapter 9 presents the contrasting invitations of Wisdom (9:1-12) and Folly (9:13-18) who have each prepared a table and are seeking to invite guests to come in and partake of their feast.
* Indication of a wealthy household with an interior courtyard. The number, seven, is symbolic of perfection or completion.
* The house symbolizes the school over which Wisdom presides, the banquet, her teaching. The house is also the world with its pillars (Job 26:11) at whose construction Wisdom was present (8:27-30) and within which she delights to live (8:31).
* 9:2 In the ancient world wine was always mixed with water before drinking. The wine of that day was much rougher than wine today and mixing water with it took the edge off. Common belief was that only the gods could drink wine straight; a mortal man would be made insane by drinking straight wine unmixed with water.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20
15 Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, 16 making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. 18 And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 15-20 These verses are largely an admonition to be filled with the Spirit of God and then to walk in that Spirit by practices that are associated with the Spirit-filled life. The wording is similar to Col 4:5; Rom 12:2; Col 1:9; Proverbs 23:31; Col 3:16-17 .
Gospel Reading: John 6: 51-58
51 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.” 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 6:51a This verse completes the passage by picking up the sequence in v 35: I Am saying; Condition:”anyone comes…”;”anyone eats…”; salvation: “not hunger…”,”live forever”. Verse 51a makes it clear that what is implied by not hungering and not thirsting is eternal life.
* 6:51b-59 This portion of this long discourse is properly Eucharistic. Up to this point the symbolism has been: bread of life = Christ which God gives = reveals to us. Now it becomes: Christ who gives: this bread = His flesh = Himself.
* From verse 51b on, the discourse takes on a much stronger Eucharistic tone rather than referring simply to Jesus as the revealer of the Father as it does up to 51b. John refers to the “flesh” of Jesus rather than the “body” of Christ which is the Eucharistic word used by Paul and the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John�s use of the word, “flesh” harkens back to John 1:14 where John first brings together the concepts of the Word and flesh. Although John�s reference to the “flesh” of Christ is probably closer to the original Semitic expression used by Jesus, in the early church both terms were used interchangeably in a Eucharistic sense. Use of “flesh” rather than “body” would not have encouraged Jesus� listeners to have a purely symbolic understanding of the language of this section because the Hebrew phrase, “to eat someone�s flesh” is a figure of speech for “to slander” or “backbite” (See Psalm 27:2; the Aramaic text of Dan 3:8). Verses 57b and 58b speak of having life in the future tense but 54a and 56b use the language of realized eschatology (that is: speaking of the future as if it already were accomplished). Verses 56 uses the language of remaining that appears in the farewell discourses (15:4-5; 17:21,23).
* The suggestion (Bultmann) that verses 51b-59 were added during the final editing of the Gospel of John does not need to imply that they represent a “correction” to the Gospel to make it acceptable to the emerging sacramental theology of the developing orthodoxy. The language, “I will raise him up on the last day”, which appears to reflect later editing appears again in v 54. It has been suggested that this material may have originated in a Johannine last supper tradition that was recast to fit into the preceding discourse.
* 6:52 This verse begins a detailed exposition on the verb,”to eat” in such a way that the symbolic meaning of ” eating and drinking” established in the first part of the discourse can now be applied to the “bread” of the eucharistic celebration. We must appreciate this process in order to appreciate that it was the literal understanding of the words that led to the quarrel among the Jews.
* 6:53 Verses 53-56 These verses expand the original statement of V 51b about Jesus’ flesh with the expression “flesh and blood”. Each verse follows the pattern of referring to eating the flesh and then drinking the blood. The assertion that they are real food and drink refers back to v 35. The other verses follow the claim that it is necessary to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” with a reference to salvation: (a)” have life in you” (v53); (b) “have eternal life”[and ” I will raise him up on the last day”] (v54); (c) “remain in me and I in him” (v56).
* The strong negative warning here in v 53 and the immanence of the formula “remain in me” in v 56 and in 15:4-5 may indicate a warning directed toward a later crisis in the community. John 15 speaks of the need for the disciples to remain attached to Jesus, the vine (also a eucharistic symbol; see Mark 14:25). This crisis could be a result of persecution or it could be the split indicated in the letters of John.
* The parallel sayings about flesh and blood appear to represent the eucharistic formula used in the Johannine community. Unlike the formulas in the Synoptic Gospels and Paul, the body of Christ is referred to with the word, “saryx”, “flesh”, not “soma”, “body”. ” Flesh” also appears in the formulas of Ignatius of Antioch. The Johannine formula probably also included a “for, on behalf of” clause, which may be represented in the “for the life of the world” of 6:51.
* 6:54 The verb, “to eat” has changed in this verse. Up to here Jesus used the common verb for eating (phago, to eat). In this verse he uses the very graphic word (trogo, to gnaw, crunch) for chewing or gnawing to emphasize the reality of the “eating”.
* 6:57 The unusual expression “the living Father” may have been formed on analogy with “the living bread” of 6:51. The Father is seen as the Source of all life.
The Father sent the Son to give life (3:16-17) and the life which the Son has is the Father’s own life given to the Son (5:26). Here the type of relationship between the Father and Son is extended to the believer who partakes of the Eucharist. This verse also uses a pattern of relationships between Father-Son and believer that belongs in the context of the farewell discourses (14:20-21; 17:21).
Immanence formulas, developed on the basis of Johannine Christology, express the relationship between the believer and Jesus established in the Eucharist.
* 6:58 The words, “the one who eats the bread will live forever” conclude the discourse and bind it to the larger context by drawing a sharp contrast between the community that possesses the “bread from heaven” and its Jewish opponents, whose ancestors had only manna and died (6:49-50).</font