The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
19 August 2018 at Saint Peter the Apostle and St. Willian Churches in Naples, FL
Proverbs 9, 1-6 + Psalm 34 + Ephesians 5, 15-20 + John 6, 51-58
We all look at food differently. For some, food is about taste. Who cares if it’s full of sugar or salt? If it tastes good, it is good. If it’s fried, it’s even better. Bring it on! We’ll work it off tomorrow or after the game if we can get ourselves out of the recliner. There are others who read labels, and they think about food in terms of organic and health promoting. For them it is all about ingredients. For some, food is their best friend, and they are always after “comfort food.” While some think of food as an enemy when you can’t get into most of the things in your closet. Food can be a manifestation of love when a grandmother happily prepares cookies for her grandchildren, and brothers and sisters crowded in a kitchen all helping prepare a Thanksgiving family feast with laughter and joy.
For the past several weeks, we have heard a lot about food in John’s Gospel. Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life and speaks somewhat disturbingly about consuming his flesh and blood. To the scandal and discomfort of those who were listening as he first spoke, he was comparing himself to the Manna in the desert which was to them a constant sign of God’s care and provident presence. They also did not fail to notice, with the talk of eating flesh and drinking blood, an image of the Lamb sacrificed at Passover. They caught the full impact of these implications that he was saying that union with him was the way to eternal life. Small minded critics in the crowd focused on the literal idea of drinking blood which appalled them while really serious critics understood exactly what Jesus was saying and protested the audacity of his claim to be speaking for God.
But, Jesus was speaking the language of the heart and soul, not the language of chemistry or physics. When he presents himself as bread, or as flesh and blood for the eating, the invitation is to receive and take him in such a way that his very life becomes our own. One group of his listeners objected that this idea was bringing God too close, and they objected wanting to keep God “in the temple” or “behind the veil.” The God Jesus revealed to them was just too near and maybe too close. Then there were others who recognized the responsibility of what Jesus was proposing. Worship and keeping the rules was suddenly hot enough. They were going to have to live in the love of God doing the works of God.
Jesus was claiming to be the meeting point between the Father and humanity, and he still is. Taking him in, eating is the way to eternal life that must cause such a transformation that anyone who accepts him will become his branches and share his life as truly as he shared the life of the Father. So, it’s still about food. It’s about food that is shared in love. It is about food that restores health, strengthens the body and the soul, and food that must be shared in service, in love, and with joy. The invitation to eat is an invitation to become.