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Twentieth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Prv 9:1-6; Eph 5:15-20; Jn 6:51-58.
Reading 1 (Prv 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.”
Reading 2 (Eph 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 (Jn 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.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The desire to live forever
A wise people never wants to die, but to live forever; but death is a reality and it always threatens human life. Why is the desire for life, considered as a human nature, taken away by death? Do people have any hope to achieve the desire for eternal life?
There is a great hope for human beings because both our faith and the Church’s doctrine confirm: First, the desire for eternal life is the true desire because God who creates human beings, wants them to live forever. Secondly, people must die because of their sins; but God prepares a plan of salvation to liberate people from sins and death.
Today readings center on the human desire to live forever. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Proverbs personified wisdom as a woman who prepared a banquet, and emphasized the condition for people to live is to eat bread and to drink wine from her preparation. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Ephesian faithful that they must learn how to live as wise people by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance to find out and to do God’s will. In the Gospel, Jesus revealed for people the secret way to live forever: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
1/ Reading I: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”
1.1/ The wisdom has prepared everything: The author personified wisdom as the woman to describe the qualities of the wisdom as follows:
– Wisdom is firm and long lasting: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns.” Seven is a perfect number according to Jewish tradition; a house is built on seven columns means a firm house, nothing can shake it.
– Wisdom prepared a banquet by “dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table.” The guest shall not lack of anything and is free of charge.
– Wisdom invited all, not a single prople is missed: She sent her maidens out to invite people and she herself calls them from the heights out over the city.
1.2/ Wisdom went out and looked for people.
(1) She looked for two kinds of people:
– The innocent (áphrôn): are those who lack of wisdom and are easy to be led astray by others.
– The fool (phrenôn): are those who lack of understanding and are easy to act without thinking.
(2) Her purpose: “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” She shall teach people to understand God’s will so people may live.
(3) The condition: “Come! Eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!” If people want to live, they must eat food and drink wine from her home-making.
St. John identified the Word (o lógos) with Christ, he is God’s wisdom, and everything is created through him.
2/ Reading II: The differences between the wise and the fool
St. Paul gave his advises to the Ephesian faithful: “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.” He helped them to recognize the differences between the wise and the fool.
2.1/ The wise are those who:
– Live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
– Know how to efficiently use the present because we are living in the days which are evil. The Jewish tradition think that the present is evil and the future is very good; the period of transition is the crisis. St. Paul might think the faithful were living in the transitory time.
– Know how to find out God’s will: “Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.”
– Understand wisdom shall lead to wise action: “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.”
2.2/ The fool are those who:
– Live according to their flesh: they get drunk and their inebriation shall lead to debauchery.
– Don’t know how to use time given by God: They waste their time in useless things which don’t benefit anything for them, but also damage their life.
– Only do their will: Since they don’t search God’s will, they only do their will. Those who act only according to their will, never reach the goal which God desires for their life.
3/ Gospel: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
3.1/ Literal analysis of Greek’s words: The following sentence of Jesus’ declaration needs to be analyzed by words and formations, “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 expression “egô eimi” followed by a phrase happened seven times in the Fourth Gospel and were used to express a special mission of Christ such as: The Bread of Life; the Good Shepherd; the Sheep’s Gate; the Vine; the Resurrection and the Life; the Light of the World; the Way, the Truth and the Life.
– The expression “o ártos o zôn” may have different meanings depending on the interpretations:
(1) Can be translated as “the bread of eternal life,” means the bread that never be destroyed. When applying to Jesus, it means Christ is the Bread of eternal life.
(2) Can be translated as “the bread that gives divine life.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the bread that brings divine life for human beings, as in John 6:33.
(3) Can be translated as “the living bread.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the living bread.
According to the context and the content, the second meaning is better than other two meanings even though they are also true to Christ.
– The expression “came down from heaven” reminded people of the event which God rained down manna from heaven to be the food for the Israelites during their forty years in desert. Manna is the figure of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The bread that brings eternal life is true and has its origin from heaven.
– “The bread that I will give:” This expression emphasizes on free-of-charge or in gratis as in the first reading, eating and drinking without paying.
– “My flesh:” The bread that gives divine life is Jesus flesh (sárk). From the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, the author used this noun to talk about the Incarnation, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).
– The reaction of the Jews: What they argued about isn’t about Jesus’ origin, but his flesh. How can a person who is living feed others with his flesh? Unless that person must die first! The more difficulty is that the Jews don’t eat human flesh.
3.2/ The necessary of the sacrament of the Eucharist: 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.”
– The formula “Amèn amèn” forewarns a truth which shall be revealed in the Fourth Gospel. The truth which Jesus wanted to reveal in this sentence is that “if you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” If Jesus didn’t reveal this truth, nobody knows it.
– The two verbs: to eat (esthío) and to drink (píno) which John used here are the two basic verbs used in the human eating and drinking, such as to eat bread and to drink water.
– Jesus differentiated between the two lives: physical (psyché) and divine (zôé). If one doesn’t eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, one still has the physical life, but not the divine life.
– The eternal life (zôé aiốnion): The divine life shall lead one to eternal life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” As Jesus, when he is in a human body; though he must still die physically, but once he gloriously resurrected, he shall no longer die. Similarly, it shall happen to a man.
– Jesus’ flesh and blood are food to nourish human being: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” The two nouns which the author used to express, food (brôsis) and drink (pósis), are the two human basic food and drink.
– The divine life is God’s life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus and the one who consumed him become one, as St. Paul cried out, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
– The divine life helps people to understand God’s wisdom and mysteries which human wisdom can’t fathom them. People have God’s widom by Christ’s Spirit who guides people. The divine life also helps people to have strength to meet Christ’s invitation to be perfect; without this strength, people can’t do it. For example, people have the divine life to love their enemies, to do good and to pray for them.
3.3/ The results of the sacrament of the Eucharist: Jesus lives by his Father’s life: “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.” In the mystery of the Incarnation, we proclaim that Jesus has two natures: God and human. His divine nature is never died, his human nature is died when he exhaled his last breath on the cross; but he is immediatedly resurrected because of his divine nature. The one who receives Christ’s flesh and blood also has the two lives, physical and divine. These two lives don’t destroy, but enhance each other.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To live forever, we must wisely find out God’s will, and do what He teaches us.
– We should believe what Jesus has revealed about the sacrament of the Eucharist and frequently receive this sacrament.