How will you answer invitation to share in the bread of life?
By: By Sharon Priester
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 16
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
This has been a busy summer for us. We have attended an ordination, a wedding and went on a pilgrimage trip to Italy. We also have visited our children, grandchildren and our siblings. Over meals, we have not only shared food but we also have shared laughs and life with our friends and loved ones.
In the first reading, Wisdom, a matron wants to invite people to her home for a dinner. The meat and wine are prepared, the table set. She sends out her maidens to invite the “simple” and “those who lack understanding.” She wants to share her food and share life, that is, food that nourishes their lives, with her guests, hoping they will “forsake foolishness” so they may live and grow in understanding and wisdom.
We have been hearing Gospel readings for the past two weeks from a part of John’s Gospel called the Bread of Life Discourse. Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus revealing himself to those who had come looking for food saying, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33) Upon hearing this, those who had been searching for Christ asked for this bread always.
Last week, the Jews in Capernaum, having known that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, murmured against Jesus when they heard Him saying, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:41)
And now, this week, Jesus says 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.” (John 6:51) The Jews who had murmured previously now begin to quarrel among themselves, asking “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:51) Note the words “this man.” Sounds like they don’t believe Jesus at all and turn away, thus declining Jesus’ invitation to share in the bread of life.
“FOOD FOR THOUGHT”
Paul in the second reading encourages the citizens of Ephesus to examine how they live. He tells them to “forsake their foolishness.” Instead, they should choose to follow the will of God. Together with the others, they should gather to worship and give thanks to God for all that they have received. It is their belief in Christ that will lead them to true wisdom.
I think Paul’s words apply to us as well. We, too, have been invited to the banquet at the table, to worship together, to partake of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ. We are given the opportunity, daily and weekly, to partake of the Eucharist where “the body and blood, together with soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374)
What will your answer be to this invitation? Will you choose to be like the grumbling, quarreling people of Capernaum or like those who came looking for food and ask Jesus to “give us this day our daily bread”? (Matthew 6:11) Will your choice be to “forsake foolishness that you may live” and “advance in the way of understanding?” (Proverbs 9:6)
I invite you to reflect on this “food for thought” from St. Ignatius of Loyola: “In every good choice, as far as it depends on us, our intention must be simple. I must consider only the end for which I am created, for the praise of God our Lord and for the salvation of my soul. Hence, whatever I choose must help me to this end for which I am created.” (From “Courageous Virtue” by Stacy Mitch, p. 23)
SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.