20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading: Proverbs 9: 1-6

The Book of Proverbs dates back to 3000 BC, and so it is possible that the sayings could have been gathered together during Solomon’s time and put into one collection.  Solomon was believed to have written most of Proverbs as well as The Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and the book of Wisdom  (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 607).

 

Today’s pericope (a select text) is a contrast between the personification of Folly and Wisdom.  Folly is trying to coax passersby with “junk food” that will only hurt them in the end.  Wisdom provides more nourishment at her table.  Wisdom offers life…it is up to us to choose.  Doesn’t this sound like an easy choice?  We should eat from Wisdom’s table, right?  But so often we don’t!  What prevents us?  How do we choose the life-giving nourishment that God provides us?  Wisdom is preparing us for the bread and wine of Christ that will always sustain us.

 

The Hebrew meaning behind the word “simple” is open-minded.  How does this change your understanding of the passage?  It frees us from the duality of wise vs. simple.  What does it mean to be wise?

 

2nd Reading: Ephesians 5: 15-20

What does the writer of Ephesians mean by calling his day ‘evil’? He probably meant that the time was out of step with truth – that it had encouraged a spirit of immorality (behavior that destroys community and treats individuals as objects) – that much of what was seen as ‘good’ was really toxic. True wisdom will lead to a life that is filled with goodness for us and for all others.  (Celebration, August 2006)  What will “watch carefully how you live” help us with?  How do we “sing and play to the Lord in our hearts”?

 

The Gospel: John 6: 51-58

\The language Jesus uses to describe this food – his very own flesh and blood – is reminiscent of sacrificial language with which the crowd would have been familiar. In the temple, the flesh of the sacrifice is roasted and eaten – the blood is poured out. To share in the sacrificial meal by eating the roasted flesh is to become a participant in the sacrifice. The victim’s life is given to God and, in turn, becomes food returned from God to the giver. The mystery of life and death is at the very heart of sacrifice. Jesus’ teaching is hard. It involves self-giving – the self-giving of Jesus and it calls for our own self-giving. When we know and appreciate that we are freely gifted by God, we are more open to sharing. We are called to remain in Jesus. By eating of his very person (flesh and blood), we can become Jesus, the Body of Christ, a nourishment that is the indwelling of divine life – eternal life.  (Living Liturgy, 2003, 192)

 

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Literally drinking blood (and eating human flesh) was prohibited in Judaism and perhaps early Christianity. Yet, “eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood” became a common way for Christians around the time of John’s Gospel to describe participation in the Eucharist. It is believed that such language served to emphasize the intimacy, the close relationship of Jesus to those who trust him and ‘feed’ on his words and the bread and wine of his table. The Father’s life was and is in Jesus – and so too all believers who share this intimate relationship that is the Eucharist. John’s gospel seems to be viewing the Eucharist not so much as a memorial of Jesus’ death or his many meals with others. Rather, Eucharist is a liturgical extension of Jesus incarnation. The divine/human life of the Risen Lord becomes one with us so we can now be his body and blood in this world today. Maybe that is why John puts this bread of life discourse right in the middle of Jesus’ life and ministry – not at the Last Supper before his death.

 

From https://www.circleofhope.net/blog/bake-bread-follow-jesus/:

This author compares making bread to following Jesus:

  1. Catch the Spirit (or the yeast):  The air caused by the yeast itself contains everything you need to add to your bread to transform it from water and flour into something great. It takes time, feeding, and attention for this to happen, but soon you’ll have caught something amazing. The same is true for our spiritual lives—we need to catch the Spirit and a big part of that is just an open posture. Be available for the Spirit, not stubborn or resolute. We don’t know which way the Spirit chooses to blow.
  2. Make sure you have enough (like sugar or honey) to foster growth:  The bread needs to have some food to grow and develop flavor. It isn’t enough to catch some passion, we have to keep our passion fed.
  3. Get engaged (or knead) in some action:  The doing part of the church is important to being a follow of Jesus. That’s what kneading bread does, too. It agitates the gluten and gets it to create some structure. Not enough kneading and the bread won’t proof, and the crumb won’t be chewy like a nice piece of bread should be.
  4. Rest:  You’re hard to handle without rest. But the resting period also develops depth, both in bread and in Spirit.
  5. Stay alert, but be patient:  Wait, rest, proof. Be filled up with the Spirit and anticipate the right time to act. Be ready, not rushed.  Time, attention and patience.
  6. Get into the oven and be transformed:  At the right time, slide your bread into the oven and watch it transform from a raw, inedible piece of dough into something that is just good to eat. Transformed Christians are visibly different, and usually people notice. They are light but deep. They have substance but aren’t too difficult. They are just like good bread, with its rustic crust and chewy crumb.
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