Sunday, August 16, 2009

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

This week’s readings invite to two banquets. The first comes from the Wisdom tradition of ancient Israel in the First Reading from Proverbs. The proverbs are attributed to Solomon (son of David, reigned 971-931 BCE) author of ‘three thousand proverbs’. It is rooted in a classic form of Egyptian wisdom literature. Wisdom, personified as a woman, spreads out a sumptuous banquet inviting “whoever is simple…. who lacks understanding”. To me this means, ‘don’t overcomplicate it’, ‘the less you know the more you are welcomed’ to this meal of dressed meat and mixed wine, which are insight and understanding. ‘Lady Wisdom’ seeks those who are not wise so she can offer the riches of wisdom that she possesses.

The second banquet is an invitation from Jesus to the bread which is clearly Eucharistic. Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, from which we read during these five weeks, is about sustenance. It is about eating. It is about nourishment. The Eucharist is not about eating like we normally eat. Normally, when we eat, we assimilate the food. Our body breaks down the food, takes the nutrients it needs, and feeds our cell system. In a sense, the food becomes part of us. Eating is about what we do with the food. We assimilate the food. But that is not what happens when we receive the Eucharist. When we receive the Eucharist, we don’t assimilate the food, the Food sort of assimilates us. Jesus transforms us. Instead of the food taking on our life, we take on the life of the Lord. We read in this week’s

Gospel: “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.” To us this means to follow Jesus with the reward of eternity (=”life forever” in a spiritual sense).

The wisdom theme is also found in the Second Reading, where the Ephesians and we are warned against foolish living. The admonition is startling: “because the days are evil”. Some of the evils we are warned about in this letter are still with us like drunkenness and corruption, dishonesty (=”debauchery”). Other forms of evil, like arrogance that presumes that our point of view is the only legitimate one, may it be in matters of religion or culture or political partisanship; corporate greed; glorification of violence; etc. would get Paul going to say “the days are evil”.

Despite the invitation to all to be enriched at the Woman’s Wisdom’s table and to be transformed by the body and blood of Christ, we often procrastinate and choose to stay comfortable in the lives we have fashioned for ourselves and shy away from reform or renewal. Yet we are all kindly invited to … the banquet that leads to life forever.

The complete text of the readings at

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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