August 16, 2015 — Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
References to food and drink are abundant in the readings for this Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. They are nonetheless largely symbolic of something greater — that is, wisdom and understanding. There is knowledge, knowing something. Then there is comprehension, grasping in some ways what the learning we have achieved means. However, the ultimate is wisdom, not just knowing and understanding, but seeing how it applies to our lives.
That is what Jesus sought in His teachings and His ministry. He wanted people to see beyond the obvious and into the depths of what life and the way we live it is all about. Nevertheless, that was not easy for the people of His time, nor is it for us today.
Our First Reading is from the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a collection of sayings and instructions that represent “wisdom.” The Book deals with values, moral behavior, the meaning of life, and correct conduct. The underlying premise is simply that recognizing the authority and the control and the “wisdom” of God takes precedent over everything else. This is, of course, at the heart of stewardship — knowing God and making God the center of our lives. In fact, the underlying message of Proverbs is that seeking wisdom may be the essence and goal of life.
Jesus made reference to Heaven being like a great feast, a sumptuous meal. That is the point of the First Reading as well. We are given choices, and we also have free will. What we choose and what we select to do, to eat if you will, is a matter left to us. We are advised to choose carefully and wisely. From the perspective of Proverbs, the wise choice is the God-centered approach.
As is St. Paul’s wont, he speaks to the “wisdom” of pursuing a spiritual way of life also. In our Second Reading Paul makes reference to drinking and eating as well, but he advises us, just as is the case in Proverbs, to choose carefully what and what path of life we follow. Paul tells us to be “filled with the spirit,” and then he completes the concept of stewardship when he states, “…giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” It is this sense of gratitude that all comes from the Lord that fulfills our lives as good stewards. All that we do is to be done in a spirit of thanksgiving. Being filled with the Spirit is more imperative than being filled with food and drink.
Jesus completes the idea of spiritual food when He states in today’s Gospel from St. John: “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.” Today’s Gospel is a continuation from what is called Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse from which our Gospel readings for the past few weeks have been drawn. Early in the discourse narratives the people ask Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” We tend to think of Rabbis as those ordained to leadership in the Jewish church. However, the term “rabbi” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “teacher.”
Jesus is the Teacher. Jesus provides the Word and the meaning of the Word. His entire treatise on the “Bread of Life” is meant to teach us, to reveal to us, the importance of taking Jesus as our Savior, of uniting with Him through the Eucharist, and using that gift to further the Kingdom in His behalf. The Spiritual Bread offered us by Jesus is the fundamental food of life that we require.