YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: LIVING WITH GOD
BY: Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence,
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” – these words from today’s Gospel from Saint John give us the basic question that each of us must answer. Who is Jesus for me? Who is Jesus for us? The early followers of Jesus had to struggle with the words that Jesus gave to them. Even more they had to struggle to understand and accept fully that Jesus is God.
The first reading today is from the Book of Proverbs and speaks about wisdom. Wisdom is about knowing how to live and how to understand living. For these early believers, living always means living with God and seeking to understand how God is present and drawing us to Himself. Wisdom is so much an intellectual understanding as it is an inner sense of how to live well with God and with others. This is why wisdom becomes identified with the Holy Spirit in later understanding.
The point of this reading from the Book of Proverbs is that wisdom has prepared a banquet and the food that wisdom prepares is to help us live with God. This connects so clearly with the Gospel where Jesus tells us that He Himself is the food, the bread of life and the true drink—if we want to live.
The second reading continues to be from the Letter to the Ephesians. Here again we meet wisdom. “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.” It is so easy to be foolish and to see this world as the whole of reality instead of recognizing that this world comes from God and in His love, God has invited us to live forever with Him. This is surely one of the most joyful statements ever to be made: God loves us and wants us to live with Him forever.
The Gospel takes us back to bread. Almost everything in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is about bread and how Jesus is our bread of life. Jesus tells us that He is the living bread and that anyone who eats this living bread will live forever. We can understand the reaction of some of the people: are you inviting us to be cannibals? The words that Jesus uses are strong and direct and really mean “to eat.” It is not just an image. We must eat Jesus and allow Him to transform us.
It would be easy to change the meaning to only a symbolic one, but the early Church and the first followers of Jesus never understood these words as only symbolic. That is why some of the followers, perhaps a lot of the followers of Jesus, left Him at this point. It was just too much. In one sense, belief is always too much. It is much easier to be an agnostic, one who is not sure. Jesus, however, invites us to complete faith in Him, in His word, and in His presence in the Eucharist.
Wisdom! Wisdom is for those who can believe. Wisdom means being able to see the hand of God and the presence of God in Jesus Christ. May we eat this living bread and may it transform us!
Barstow Heights Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico