The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] – Aug. 16, 2015

Here is the homily preached at St. Peter Parish in Schulte for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year B].  The Scriptures of the Mass are Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58:  click HERE for the readings from the USCCB website.

Jump below for the homily’s text…

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Proverbs 9:1-6  +  Ephesians 5:15-20  +  John 6:51-58
August 16, 2015
Is there any difference between being “smart” and being “wise”?  This is a timely question, with our young people returning to school.  But this is what King Solomon, the author of our first reading, asks all of us, no matter our age.  Solomon prepares us for the words of Jesus in the Gospel.

So what is the difference between being “smart” and being “wise”?  In our own day there are what are called “smart bombs”, and we’ve had a computer defeat the chess champion of the world.  How do you imagine the defeated champion felt?  Did he feel less than human, to have been beaten by a machine?  Are the machines we have created now smarter than we are?

In one sense, of course computers are smarter than we are.  Why else would we use them?  There is no human person who can figure out the number of calculations that a simple, cheap, hand-held calculator can in mere seconds.  I’m sure that some of our high school and college students have recently bought calculators that can do a lot more than just arithmetic.  Most calculators can carry out operations that I couldn’t carry out even with paper and pen!

But of course in another sense, humans are smarter than computers.  After all, who created the computer?  Or even more to the point, who can pull the other’s plug?  Computers may make us blow a fuse, but we can always pull their plug (and many days, I’m sorely tempted to do just that).

The real question, though, that’s at the heart of the relationship between man and computer is:  “who controls whom?”

We’re constantly answering this question in our lives.  King Solomon, in our First Reading from Proverbs, records divine Wisdom as calling out to mankind:  “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!”  Unfortunately, as children of Adam and Eve, our tendency is to think that we are in control of everything in our lives:  that we understand everything.  If God’s Wisdom were to take flesh, and appear in our homes, offering this same invitation to the simple, would we consider ourselves invited?

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul urges us not to continue in our ignorance.  He urges us to make the most of the opportunity of the present moment.  He urges us to be filled with the Spirit, to give thanks to God the Father always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Even for the opportunities in our lives not to be in control.  Even for the opportunity to die.

+     +     +

That is the opportunity that we hear the Wisdom of God made Flesh offering to the crowds in today’s Gospel passage.  This Sunday is the fourth of the five Sundays this summer during which our Gospel Passage comes from John chapter 6.  This entire chapter is one long series of narratives in which John shows Jesus leading others deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Eucharist, of His Real Presence as the “Bread of Life”.

Jesus has told the Jewish crowd, “I am the bread of life.”  But they ignore his words.  For our own part, we need to ask ourselves what we are ignorant of.  If we’re willing to ask that question, and listen to the answer, we may grow in wisdom.

It’s a fairly common experience for us to be frustrated by a situation, and to have no idea what to do next.  This ignorance may occur before a jigsaw puzzle, before a report that’s due next week, or even before a person whom we do not understand.  And so we ask ourselves, “what am I to do next?”  The missing piece to the puzzle is often right in front of our eyes, and we cannot see it.  We need someone else to stand before us and point out the missing piece to us with His finger.  We need a teacher.

Jesus, like any good teacher, responds to their ignorance with compassion.  They don’t even know what they’re ignorant of.  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?”  And Jesus replies, not by saying that “eating his flesh” is just a figure of speech.  Instead, Jesus replies by saying, “if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. …For my Flesh is Real Food and my Blood is Real Drink.”

Jesus is speaking about the flesh and blood that he is going to offer on the Cross on Good Friday.  Jesus, at this point in the gospel, cannot offer this real bread and drink just yet.  He does not say, “The bread I AM giving you is my flesh.”  Instead, He says, “The bread I WILL give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”

Jesus gave His Flesh and Blood for us when He died on the Cross on Good Friday.  But He established the Sacrifice of the Mass on the night before He died.  In that Upper Room, with His apostles, he prepared a banquet for those in the future who would be willing to admit that they are nothing without Him.  This banquet is for those of us who are without understanding, but who at least know what we don’t know.  We know we must be like Christ to truly live.  But we cannot imitate Christ through sheer will-power.  We must be nourished by God Himself.  Only when He dwells within you can you live your life as He led His.

In that Upper Room at His Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, he took bread and gave God the Father thanks and praiseJesus broke the bread, and offered it to His followers just as He offers it to you and me every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Every day, He says standing plainly before us:  Take this, all of you, and eat it.  This is my Body which will be given up for you.  The question before us when we come to Mass is, “do we know how hungry we are?”  Or do we think that we are in control of our lives?