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Today’s readings

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August 19, 2012 Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 119

 

Today’s readings stress the fact that the Holy Eucharist, which perfectly fulfills the symbol of the manna of the Old Testament, is the food that gives us life forever. In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus declared that the bread he gives is his flesh. This Sunday, Jesus asserts that to eat this Bread is to have eternal life. The first and second readings encourage us to turn aside from those things that do not nourish and sustain us and turn towards the divine source: “be filled with the Spirit.”

 

 

In today’s first reading, from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom, representing God, offers wisdom and understanding in the form of a rich banquet to all those who are willing to heed her invitation. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the divine wisdom personified by Jesus. The responsorial psalm thanks God for His providential care and His close association with His people, and invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” In the second reading, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God for calling them, along with the Jews, to Christianity, and for giving them a share in Christ’s life. They will be able to receive this life by avoiding their former foolish ways, for example, getting drunk on wine. Instead they are to be Spirit-filled and their talk edifying, always trying to discern and do the will of God. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus asserts that eating the Living Bread, himself, allows us to participate in his life and is the inauguration of our eternal life with God. Jesus emphasizes the eternal-life dimensions of eating His Body and drinking his Blood. "Eternal life" is complete and lasting happiness, satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. We begin to experience this happiness in this world and enter it completely and forever in heaven. This means that those who have faith in Jesus have already stepped into heaven in this life, sharing in God’s own life and therefore in eternal life. In the case of the Eucharist, once we start eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood, we’re there. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another.

 

 

First reading, Proverbs 9:1-6: In Old Testament times, most people believed that heaven and hell existed within this present life rather than in the future. According to Proverbs, heaven exists in the quest for divine wisdom, in the quest to discover Yahweh's presence in everything and everyone. Those who discover how God operates in this world will live fulfilled and happy lives. In chapter nine, from which today’s first reading is taken, Wisdom is depicted as a gracious hostess inviting the people to a fine banquet. "Wisdom" becomes the symbolic image of the search for God's will. As this reading suggests, faith opens up the fonts of wisdom to nourish us. The reading invites us to an even more excellent banquet: the banquet depicted in today’s gospel, John 6: 51-58. When we partake of the Flesh and Blood of Christ, we are filled with true wisdom. Here, wisdom means knowing the will of God in our lives, knowing the real values in life and knowing how to live life as God means us to do. In their hymns and creeds, early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. The bread of life discourse in John indicates that the Eucharist is Wisdom’s banquet, where we share in the divine wisdom Incarnate in Jesus.

 

Second Reading, Ephesians 5:15-20: In the earlier chapters of his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul reveals God’s secret plan. It is to extend the call of the Chosen People to the Gentiles, too. Hence, in today’s selection, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God by avoiding their former foolish ways, for example, getting drunk on wine. Instead, they have to be filled with the Spirit, understand the will of the Lord and address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual singing, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Paul encourages the community in Ephesus "to discern the will of the Lord." The authentic follower of Jesus “gives thanks always and for everything." Paul believes that no one can be a faithful follower of God without actively trying to discover God's will for him or her. The apostle believes that we can discover God’s will wherever we may be.

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