[Homily for 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Aug 16, 2015 / Prov 9:1-6 / Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7 / Eph 5:15-20 / John 6:51-58]
“Make sure you chew your food well!” Most of us have either read this good advice or heard it first from our own mothers. To chew the food well aids digestion. “Take your time eating” is an additional advice to be heeded especially for those who gulp their food down. So where is this dietary advice leading us? Well the psalmist again this week reminds us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34). But the food we are offered as Christians is not just any old fast food. It is a food that nourishes and builds up.
The living Word of God will not leave us malnourished! In the first reading Wisdom advises us, “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! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding”(Proverbs 9:1-6).
There is food available. No need to go hungry. The Word of God is a light for our path and lamp for our feet. It lights up the way and helps us to see the potholes to avoid on the way. However it is important to chew well the Word of God, not just to gulp it down but to chew it, to reflect on it, to assimilate and digest it. St Ignatius was fond of repeating that it is not many things that nourish and fill the soul, but a few things, deeply savored. Maybe I do not know so many things but what I understand I put into practice. It is useful in the hustle and bustle of life to try to find one aspect of our relationship with God that is nourishing us.
Sometimes it is not easy to savor something deeply. Perhaps you feel that many things are happening in your life right now but what is the common thread? What is the deeper connection? For me it is that God is asking me to trust in him unconditionally. How about you? What is God asking of you at this moment? The Holy Spirit often gives us many clues as usually God manifests his wishes not just once but often he repeatedly shows us the area where he is asking us to grow. This is why St Paul reminds us: “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:15-20)
The will of God will lead us to a closer identification with Jesus. In every Eucharist we are called to become what we receive – Body of Christ. Jesus says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
The classical Greek verb for eating (“phagein”) is not used here but rather “trogon” which has the sense of gnaw or munch. In a sense when we partake of the body and blood of Christ it cannot be a merely external participation but to really digest the mystery we receive. We need to allow Jesus to live in us, to vivify our way of thinking and acting, to be a sign of his presence in the world. So that our lives may be a living Eucharist by being concrete signs of communion.
Eucharist means thanksgiving, so we can live a Eucharistic life by continually giving thanks too – “giving thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20). One day in a hospital there was a young woman dying of cancer with no money to pay for proper treatment. She woke up and I dreaded to hear the complaints she would have. What a surprise I got when the first words to come out of her lips were “Thank you Lord for another day of life.” Were our first words this morning when we awoke thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving leads to trust in God. We start to see the wonderful things He is doing in our lives. And that what we receive in the Body and Blood of Christ is eternal life. In a funeral Mass the priest gave communion and as each person received the body and blood of Christ, he said, “You will never die.” As Jesus said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Let us give thanks to God for this great Good News.
Help us Lord to savor what we receive, to let it nourish us. Teach us how to chew the Word we receive, to ponder and reflect on what you are doing in our lives. Teach us how to become what we receive in every Eucharist, to be aware that we receive your Body and Blood every time we receive Holy Communion. And Lord Jesus, remind us to be thankful. Thank you! Amen.