NOTE:  I will retire as abbot on December 12, 2018.  I have been writing these homilies since the First Sunday of Advent in 1997.  I will no longer write these homilies.  My last homily will be published for the Solemnity of Christ in the King, November 25, 2018.  Another brother will begin to write the weekly homily for the upcoming Sunday liturgy.  So the homilies will continue, but with another author.  Abbot Philip

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  –  Cycle B  –  2018

FIRST READING            Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table.  She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city:  “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding, she says, ‘Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!  Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.’”

SECOND READING                  Ephesians 5:15-20

Brothers and sisters:  Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.  And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

GOSPEL                John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:  “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.”  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”   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.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  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.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

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!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip