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August 12, 2009
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Aug. 16: 20th Sunday, Ordinary Time
Scripture readings: Proverbs 9:1-6 / Psalm 34:2-7 / Ephesians 5:15-20 / John 6:51-58
Overview: The first reading forms the background for the Gospel. Here, Wisdom is personified as a beautiful woman who invites the humble and meek to a sumptuous banquet of delicious food and fine wine. Divine Wisdom, in other words, is not just a collection of dull facts that we learn and then quickly forget—in one ear and out the other. Rather, Divine Wisdom is like a gourmet meal that we savor and assimilate. The second reading echoes the first by contrasting wisdom and folly. Once again, wisdom is not merely a matter of knowing things, but of understanding “the will of the Lord” and living in accordance with the Spirit. In this week’s Gospel Jesus gets specific: he doesn’t simply equate the “bread of heaven” with himself in an abstract sort of way, but he says quite explicitly that the “bread” that he gives is his own flesh. By using the word “flesh” we are reminded of the beginning of John’s Gospel where he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). The “Word” is the Logos, or Divine Wisdom of God that became incarnate in Jesus Christ. God’s Wisdom is thus no longer distant and abstract, but a living person “in whom we live, and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Key verse: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “‘Daily’ (epiousios) [as in: “give us this day our daily bread”] occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us. Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day” (No. 2837).