Proverbs 9, 1-6
- Wisdom has built her house. It sounds like a society
story from long ago, a housewarming or open house for the important lady in town. I
once heard that this reading (with its seven pillars of wisdom) was one of the most commented on during the Middle
Ages, when the church was the educator of Europe.
- I hear colorful details in a small space: a house with seven columns and a spread table. I hear the call from the heights out over the city that is forerunner of our
own art of mass communication.
- I note that Dame Wisdom is the matron of the story, and she
is attended by her maidens. I don’t think those details are accidental.
- It is more than a report. It is an invitation to pay a
visit. That is how I will read today’s Gospel passage as well, as an invitation. There’s a sense of an infomercial here, because Wisdom is not in a hurry to
finish. I can also take my time as I praise the banquet of dressed meat
and mixed wine which we will share.
- So is it just a matter of dressing up and showing up? I listen to what wisdom says: Let whoever is simple turn.
That’s the language of conversion. We are to go just we go to church,
searching our souls, and knowing that we are simple and lack understanding.
- Central point: To appreciate the goodness of divine wisdom we
must change our lives and forsake foolishness.
- Message for our assembly: How do we, the children of this age,
promote our goods and services? Do we believe we have something beautiful to
- I will challenge myself: To put on my best promotional voice, in a
kind of intimate sell, using the techniques of warmth that an electronic evangelist might use in the cozy studio shot at the
end of her program.
Ephesians 5, 15-20
- The apostle makes an appeal for a church. I think it would be an ideal
theme for a homily, with its moral reminders. He begins with an admonition: Watch
carefully how you live. And he ends with a Trinitarian flourish: In the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
- He promotes two different kinds of behavior. One is controlled
and careful before the outside world, something like the wise virgins in Matthew’s parable. Live not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity.
- How do I read the next phrase: because the days are evil. Some
may see here a theological judgment on our age, but I just hear a common saying about everyday life (‘These are not
easy times, you know’) and I will say it like a wizened granduncle who has seen it all.
- Next I hear an echo of the first reading that clarifies what wisdom means for Christians: try to understand what
is the will of the Lord. We are not an ignorant but a guided people. We are not self-centered, losing ourselves drunk on wine in which lies debauchery.
- Now the apostle changes his tune in some of the happiest phrases in the entire scriptures. We are drawn to each other and support each other as we are filled with the Spirit. We speak to each other not in our own words but in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. I think of those evangelicals who have built their churches together and who love to take a full part in
prayer and song.
- Finally I hear the evoking of the Trinity and of our own eucharistic celebration.
We are filled with the Spirit. We give thanks always and for
everything (in every assembly we pray “We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks”) to God the
Father. And we do it all in the name of Jesus.
- Climax: The life we live together singing and playing to the Lord. The
apostle means to play on musical instruments, so I will say ‘singing and playing’ as one phrase.
- The message for our assembly: Why are we so measured and opportunistic in our assembly?
It is a time for loving spontaneity. Is there any hymn that we love so
much that we would sing it to others without any prompting?
- I will challenge myself: To adopt an air of admonition in the first part of the reading, and shift quickly to enthusiasm
when I speak of our own assemblies.
John 6, 51-58
- John’s Gospel leaves me with a greater challenge than usual, especially when he presents a parable
together with its elucidation. Today’s passage ranks with the story of
the Samaritan woman and her ‘five husbands’ as the most notorious.
- It is another open invitation: Whoever eats this bread… whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has
eternal life. Jesus repeats it four times.
But the invitation is jolting if I speak it and my assembly hears it on the most literal plane. If I cannot rise to the level of meaning I will leave them with a bunch of obscenities, as happened to
the crowd that heard only what it wanted to hear.
- How can this man? No, they did not misunderstand. They misconstrued deliberately, something that happens too often even in our own assemblies.
That is why Jesus did not back off from his language. Neither must I make excuses.
- What did the evangelist mean? His Gospel is filled with the most intimate
examples from our daily lives, with water, sight, friendship, pathways. Today
it is food. Jesus is closer to us than we are to the meat and drink we consume. We are not scandalized when we eat the flesh of animals, and we know that certain
foods are good for our health. It is the same thing here.
- Closer? Yes, because Jesus stays with us and gives us
true food and true drink, not the kind that we eat and still die. That
is the point of using the living, regenerating and decaying word ‘flesh.’
We have to ‘eat his flesh,’ to come to Jesus in his humanity, if we want to be close to him. God finds the creation loveable and very good. God’s
greatest expression of goodness and love is in the very human Jesus. Why is it
so hard to accept this gift?
- I hum one of Johnny Cash’s ballads: “Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood.”
- How to read this effectively? I think that I should tell it as a unit,
insisting at every point and not backing away from the words. Let all of it,
flesh and blood, food and drink, life, rising, eternity, blend together in our consciousness.
- Central theme: Eternal life. I repeat it as an announcer repeats
the final score of a game, with even greater intensity because it is true and not subject to argument.
- Message for our assembly: How close are we to Jesus and his word? Closer
than the meals and snacks we consume so often every day?
- I will challenge myself: To speak out without excuses, to insist on the parable.