Sunday Scripture readings, Aug. 19, 2018: An unanswered question

COLUMN ART SPEAK TO ME LORD

The Catholic News Service column, “Speak to Me Lord,” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

August 19, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
1) Prv 9:1-6
 Psalm 34:2-7
2) Eph 5:15-20
Gospel: Jn 6:51-58

 By Kevin Perrotta
Catholic News Service

The day after Jesus multiplied a few loaves of bread into thousands, a crowd gathered in the synagogue in Capernaum to hear him speak. He told them, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven … my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).

Predictably, this claim provoked a question. “The Jews” (the Gospel-writer’s abbreviated way of referring to those Jews who were hostile to Jesus) asked, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52).

The question was reasonable, but Jesus didn’t answer it. Why?

Jesus was to transform bread and wine into himself at the Last Supper. His words, “this is my body … this is my blood,” would link this transformation to his death, for death is signified by body separate from blood. By saying, “given for you,” he would indicate that his life would be offered to God as a sacrifice for his disciples — an expiation to remove sins.

COLUMN WRITER PERROTTA

Kevin Perrotta writes for the Catholic News Service Scripture column, “Speak to Me Lord.” (CNS photo/courtesy Kevin Perrotta)

Thus Jesus’ flesh and blood at the Last Supper was to be a sacrificial meal. Eating it would be the means of sharing in his sacrifice. The disciples would eat and drink the one who gave his life for them to God.

If we step back and look at it, Jesus’ death might seem like an incomprehensible stupidity. Why voluntarily submit to an atrocious death? Yet, in a hidden way, it was the wisest of acts, because through it Jesus bore witness that, even to the point of failure, suffering and death, God’s plans are better than human plans, God’s will better than human will.

Eating and drinking Jesus, then, is the remedy for the foolishness rooted in each of us — my conviction that my life rightfully centers around what I want, the illusion that my will, rather than God’s, is the path to my happiness.

In the Eucharist, Jesus, the one who has given all to the Father, comes to me to share his conviction that the Father’s will is good, his determination to live and to die in this world to serve the Father’s purposes, his ability to surrender entirely to the Father.

In the Capernaum synagogue, Jesus offered no explanation of how he would give his flesh to eat because no one could yet understand any of this.

The real question is whether you and I have yet truly understood.

Reflection Quote:

“The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).

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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series (Loyola Press), teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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