20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Gerard Jonas

Homily of 19 August 2018

Prov 9:1-6; Ps 34(33):2-3.4-5.6-7; Eph 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

There’s a story about the very stiff competition among insurance companies regarding coverage. The first company advertised: “You are covered from birth to death.” The second one boasted: “You are covered from the womb to the tomb.” But nobody can beat the last, which said: “You are covered from conception to resurrection!”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers Himself as the Bread of Life that assures one to live forever, saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Have you noticed that it was through what Adam and Eve ate that got them banished from life in Paradise and how death came into the world? In reverse, Jesus offers redemption through also what to eat but which brings eternal life.

In John’s Gospel passage, Jesus speaks of the FOOD that He gives for the life of the world in various terms. First, He speaks of HIMSELF as the life-giving food, saying “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” He identifies the bread from heaven that He offers His own flesh “for the life of the world.”

Then, He speaks of this food as His FLESH AND BLOOD. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you … for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” “Flesh and blood” is a phrase that connotes the whole being of a person. Some scholars say that by referring to Himself in this way, Jesus is presenting Himself as the sacrificial lamb with its blood separated from its flesh.

Like Lady Wisdom in the First Reading who invites everyone to eat of her food and drink of her wine so as to forsake foolishness and live, Jesus also invites us to eat and drink. But unlike Wisdom, Jesus declares himself to be that bread and drink. We are to eat of him, to drink of him.

And as the First Reading speaks of wisdom that replaces foolishness, Paul in the Second Reading warns the Ephesians to live not as unwise but as wise people.

And like those times, in Paul’s description, we too at present live in “days of evil’ and so also “need to make the most of the opportunity.” Just see how we continue to be lured into eating and likewise feeding others with what is detrimental to real life. Both material and moral goods are peddled as beneficial that mocks our wise judgment which turns otherwise. Truth is taken over by falsities, giving us “truth-decay.” As with ‘tooth-decay,’ we suffer and so go to the dentist. But unlike it, with ‘truth-decay,’ we also make others suffer. It is a form of rampant hunger for truth and goodness and well-being, that we need to feel and realize so we may discern with what and how to satisfy it. And we only need to go to Jesus.

Though not part of what was proclaimed today, Psalm 34 (v.10) invites us to place our trust in God for the right food: “Lions may go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord for nourishment will never go hungry.”

Sometimes, it is not a matter of what we eat but of what is eating us? In our weakness, we develop unhealthy and unwise tendencies and value-systems. But we know that we only need to turn back to Jesus. The Lord Jesus offers Himself as the good gift – the Eucharist, (eu means good, charis means gift) the real food for real life. He alone offers the right way to live the best life, for He is the Way. He alone enlightens without confusing what is beneficial and what is not for He is the Truth. He alone renders life eternal by offering Himself as the Bread of Life. His Passion, Death, and Resurrection avail us eternal life for He is the Life.

Quoting the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord also said that “Man does not live by bread alone but also by the word that comes from God.” We know from John that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God.

How good it is that at this Celebration, the Lord nourishes us twice. We partake of Christ both as Word and Sacrament. At the Liturgy of the Word, Christ the Word is proclaimed to enliven our heart and mind. At the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. And unlike physical food that becomes part our body, when we partake of the Eucharist we actively become part of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are spiritually transformed by Christ’s Body and Blood so that we can be part of God’s eternal reign.

May we never go hungry, but as well-fed, may we go and nourish and nurture others as well, with our life in Christ.