Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, AUGUST 17 Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58 OUR GOOD NEWS: Come! Let us eat and drink at the Lord’s table and live forever! Among the four Gospels, only John’s fails to mention Eucharistic institution at the Last Supper. Today’s selection, the fourth of five excerpts from the Bread of Life Discourse read on successive Sundays, more than compensates for this lack. "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven." Until this point in John 6, "bread" functioned as a metaphor for Jesus, divine Wisdom/ Torah/ guidance, "living" (life-giving) because it is utterly essential for authentic existence. "Come down from heaven" refers to the incarnation and grounds Jesus’ credentials in His divine origins. Without the Son becoming a human being there is neither sacrament nor salvation. To eat of this bread results in profound at-oneness with the divine Son become man. Reference to the future ("I will give") points to Jesus’ sacrificial death, His "flesh"-self offered once on Calvary and shared at every Eucharistic celebration. We cannot truly live, Jesus insisted, unless we eat His flesh. Plain sense can’t be ignored: His "flesh" is "real food" and we must "feed" on it — a rather crude Greek verb meaning to "munch" or "gnaw." Equally shocking, we must "drink" the "real drink" that is His "blood" to be raised up on the Last day." Jewish law prohibited as abomination consumption of blood (Gn 9:4; Lv 17:10-16). "The Father who causes others to live sent me, and He has caused me to live." "Eternal life" means every dream come true, complete and lasting happiness satisfying our deepest longings. John the Evangelist’s audiences misunderstood Jesus, but their stumbling block resulted from willful, sinful refusal to accept life from Him rather than someone else — in their case, the great Moses. "Belief" means commitment, getting involved, but Jesus’ audience was content with "bread" already possessed, the Mosaic Law. Their ancestors ate this "heavenly bread" but "died nonetheless." Jesus is as essential for our resurrected existence as food and drink for earthly life. We desperately desire to possess and be possessed, to embrace and be embraced, in a union far more profound even than marriage and parenthood.

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