The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Prv 9:1-6  +  Eph 5:15-20  +  Jn 6:51-58
August 19, 2018

“For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.”

The Church this Sunday, continuing the proclamation of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse, sets before us four Scripture passages to whet our appetite for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  We hear a First Reading, a Responsorial Psalm, a Second Reading, and a Gospel Reading.  Rarely on a Sunday in Ordinary Time are the four passages so closely related to a single theme, like four courses of a fine meal.  Usually in Ordinary Time the four scriptures are more of a smorgasbord.

The refrain of a Responsorial Psalm, when the psalm is related to all three of the other readings, can be especially helpful in appreciating the riches of the Liturgy of the Word.  We might consider this refrain the wine that accompanies the whole meal.  We sip from it repeatedly, and it enhances the flavors of each course.

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”  This simple sentence from Psalm 34:8 is so profound that its meaning can soar right over our heads.  We’re used to the idea of “seeing” the goodness (or beauty, or wisdom) of the Lord.  In fact, one of theology’s descriptions of the experience of Heaven is the Beatific Vision.  Of course, seeing the goodness of the Lord transcends the type of vision that our eyes make possible.  Our physical sight becomes a metaphor for a spiritual vision of God.

So then, what does it mean to “taste the goodness of the Lord”?  It’s helpful here to recall the experience of tasting a good meal.  But can such an experience serve as a metaphor for the Goodness who is God Himself?  Sacred Scripture answers, “Yes.”  If this scriptural image challenges us in imagination and spirit, we might consider the challenge an experience to be savored.

In Sunday’s First Reading, Wisdom calls us to eat of her food and drink of her wine.  In the Second Reading, Saint Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be wise, not foolish.  In contrast to his example of foolishness—namely, getting drunk on wine—he cites the experience of being filled with the Spirit.  The contrast is clear when we remember how the Apostles on the day of Pentecost were thought to be drunk [see Acts 2:13].

While Sunday’s Gospel passage also uses metaphors of taste, Jesus makes clear that the experience He’s demanding of those who follow Him is no mere metaphor.  Jesus is emphatic:  “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. … For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.”

As the riches of the Old Testament are, so to speak, appetizers for the Gospel of the New Testament, so the Liturgy of the Word prepares us to taste and see the goodness of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The Word became Flesh in order to offer His Flesh both for us and to us, truly and really, as a means of abiding in Jesus and Him abiding us in us, today, each day of our earthly pilgrimage, and forever in Heaven.