20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
August 19, 2012
Lady Wisdom has prepared a great meal and invited the “simple” and those “who lack understanding.” One might think Lady Wisdom would invite only those who are wise like her but she invites all. She wants all to share in her wisdom.
She also speaks of the “foolish”. We should ask how she is defining “foolishness” and “wise”. Sometimes, what seems like human foolishness can be God’s Wisdom. It is God’s Wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit that we are called to seek.
For this Lady Wisdom invites us to her great banquet.
Jesus invites us to even a greater banquet but, if like some of the Jews, we try to understand what Jesus is saying in human terms it makes no sense.
Jesus tells them that they must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood.” In human terms this is awful. It’s cannibalism. It’s disgusting. So those who think in human terms find it ‘foolish.’
Of course, at that point the people knew nothing of the Eucharist. But we do. When viewed with eyes of faith and in light of the Eucharist, “Eat my flesh” and “Drink my blood” becomes a profound statement.
Some would say the Jews who objected were taking Jesus too literally. In a sense they are but then we take Jesus very literally when he says “This is my body, this is my blood” but we understand in faith that it happens on level that transcends the physical.
This is the fourth week in a row that we have been reading from the discourse in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel that includes the Bread of Life Discourse. This is the week where I had been hoping to come up with some great argument that would serve as proof of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
I haven’t found a wise argument in human terms. Thinking that bread and wine could become the Body and Blood of Jesus could seem like foolishness in human terms. With faith, it is a profound wisdom to believe in the Real Presence. So I would just like to share with you two specific experiences of mine and then a general experience of the Real Presence.
First, as I was preparing for my ordination to the priesthood and presiding at Mass for the first time I reflected a lot on what the Eucharist meant to me and what it would mean for me to preside at the Eucharist. At that time (and still do!) I very much believed in the real presence. I prayed to God that the first time that I said the words of consecration at Mass that I very much be aware of that profound change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus that we call “Transubstantiation.” And I was. I wish I could describe it for you but it can only be described in faith, not human wisdom. I simply knew something incredible was going on.
The second experience involves Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. For those of you not familiar with the practice, the Blessed Sacrament, a consecrated host, is placed in a monstrance on the altar for all to see. People come and pray individually.
The first couple of times I went to Exposition, it would hard and nothing really happened. I just kept waiting for something spectacular. Then, when I started in major seminary, I went one last time and said to God, this is the last time, unless this feels good, I’m not doing this again. Well, God responded and it was the best hour of prayer I had had in several months. What was different? Well, I took some spiritual reading with me but didn’t just sit and read. I’d read a little, pray a little, and God spoke to me. It wasn’t a piece of bread. It was God’s presence in a special way.
Lastly a general experience. Sometimes, when I come to Mass, things haven’t always gone the way I would like, and I might not be in a good mood. As Mass goes on, I let go of my bad mood and leave happier than when I came. When I say ‘happier’ it’s not that everything becomes perfect or that I even get happy. It’s more a sense of peace than happiness. I believe that happens because I am aware of the divine action in the Eucharist. The fact that I feel better after Mass than before proves to me the Real Presence.
I hope you can relate to what I have said. You might not feel like you do but the fact that you are here proves to me that in some way you believe that something special does happen here. We might not understand it. We might not be able to describe it but we do believe and in our belief Jesus gives us grace.