Apr252014
The work of DignityUSA on April 25, 2014 could have been sponsored by you. Click here for more information.

AUGUST 19, 2012: TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Proverbs 9:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Biblical wisdom isn't the ability to consistently win at Jeopardy.

When our sacred authors speak about a wise person, they're basically describing someone who is able to look at the world in which we live and both see and reflect on patterns in God's creation, patterns which eventually lead him or her to uncover patterns in God's actions in our lives. If, for instance, we see ants working against all odds to accomplish difficult tasks, then God must be working just as hard to accomplish good for us.

Of course, Scripture scholars constantly remind us that Scripture contains a "wisdom debate." Some authors, like the author of today's Proverbs passage, are convinced we can find such patterns. Others, like the author of Job, believe such patterns don't exist. For them, God can do whatever God wishes, for whom and wherever God wishes, in spite of our preconceived notions about God's behavior.

Like their Jewish ancestors in the faith, Christians also struggled to surface God's will and actions in their lives. Though they appreciated the insights of those authors who sided with today's Proverbs writer, they also were convinced that, through Jesus, God was leading them down roads for which there was no precedent. They quickly found themselves going through doors few people had dared open.

In the midst of such newness, the author of Ephesians follows his mentor, Paul's, lead, relying on Jesus' Spirit to help surface God's will. The writer's command is short and to the point: "Be filled with the Spirit." He presumes the Spirit is such an integral part of his readers' lives that they'll often find themselves ". . . addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual song, singing and playing to the Lord in (their) hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." Faith isn't something they can turn on or off at will. It's their very life.

Although John's Jesus approaches this issue from a little bit different perspective, he basically agrees with our Ephesians writer. It's essential to the fourth evangelist's theology that we can be certain we're doing what God wants us to do in our everyday lives because there's no distinction between us and the risen Jesus. Those who carry on the ministry of Jesus have evolved into other Christs. Not only does Jesus' Spirit guarantee that unity, but the Eucharistic food and drink which he gives makes certain the two of us can never be separated. "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood remain in me and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also those who feed on me will have life because of me…Whoever eats this bread will live forever."

John carries this conviction even one step further: "... Unless you eat the flesh of the Son and Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."

Considering the eternal implications of these words, it bothers me that many Christian denominations today rarely celebrate the Lord's Supper. Yet, as I often remind my students, it's not their fault. One need only read the minutes of the Council of Trent (1545) to discover some of the abuses which flourished in Roman Catholic Eucharistic celebrations before and during the Reformation. No wonder so many reformers wanted nothing to do with "the Mass."

Of course, John's Jesus simply presumed we'd all "do the Eucharist right." If we suspect we're not, it's certainly material for frequent, serious examinations of conscience.