20th Sun [B] 2009

Fr. Charles Irvin

Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 3:15-20; John 6:51-58
 
When you love someone you want to be a part of the life of the one you love. Love seeks union, a union with the heart, mind, soul, and life of your beloved. You want to belong.
 
So much of life, perhaps all of life, is about belonging, that belonging taking us to family reunions, weddings, anniversaries, and all those other special moments when once again we experience and share in each other’s lives. Texting, twittering, e-mailing, cell phone chatting, and all manner of other modern methods of being a part of the the lives of others now abound.
 
That impetus is ancient, as old as humankind. We here those ancient echoes in today’s first reading:
 
Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city:” Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!
 
When we give gifts we make ourselves present to others. Gifts are presents – they allow us to be present in the hearts of those to whom we give them. Christmas is that special time of the year when we exchange presents and strengthen the union we have with those we love. It is likewise that time when we receive God’s gift to us, the gift on His only Son coming to us in our own humanity. The Incarnation is that wonderful gift in which God takes on our human flesh and  presents Himself to us. In that moment God offers Himself to us and then waits for our response.
 
The Old Testament is a recorded history of God offering His love to us. The Old Testament should be read in that context, with that background in mind, otherwise you can lose in the detailsthat central setting found in the bible. There is much in the Old Testament that can distract us, diverting our attention away from the main thrust of God offering Himself to us. In those ancient days He spoke to us through the prophets, rulers, and the holy men and women of Israel. All of God’s mighty deeds are recorded there, mighty deeds that revealed His care, concern, and love for each one of us.
 
But love letters are not enough, are they? Messages are not enough. Even gifts are not enough. We seek a deeper union. We want to belong, we always want to belong, in deeper ways… and so does God.
 
Which leads us to Christ Jesus, God’s anointed, God’s special gift to us that makes Him present to us not just externally, but internally. God comes to us as food to get inside us, to live inside us, to enter totally and completely into our lives, into our very selves.
 
This is at the core of all that Christ Jesus was about. To be sure, Christ was all about bringing us God’s forgiveness of our sins. But God forgives us our sins in order that something profoundly deeper may take place. He forgives us our sins so He can enter into our hearts, our souls, our lives, and into our very selves. God comes to us seeking a union so deep, so intimate, and so profound that we can hardly believe it. And yet it it so, which is why we hear Jesus in today’s Gospel account telling us:
 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
 
The great analogue Jesus uses is that of The Wedding Feast. Why? Because it’s the best way to enter into the deep reality of what God is offering us, and what He is doing when we receive Him in Holy Communion.
 
We need to pay attention to the way St. John presents this to us. In his Gospel we find that the first miracle Jesus performed was at the wedding feast of Cana where He changed water into wine. At the Last Supper He changed wine into His blood, the two miracles bracketing St. John’s gospel. We should particularly note that in St. Matthews’s gospel Jesus often uses parables of wedding feasts and banquets to present God’s kingdom of love to us. Also we need to see that the Book of Revelation speaks of the Last Supper as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
 
Eternal life is living in the gift of God’s love. God created us to belong, to live in union with others and with them to live with Him in His communion of love. What is puzzling to me is the fact that many reject God’s offer of Himself to us. The gospel account we just heard has some verses that immediately follow after it. St. John goes on to report:
 
 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
 
The forces of evil are powerful… tremendously powerful. Evil has taken a world made for love and filled it with jealousy, envy, hatred, abuse, violence, torture, and war. I suppose, given the condition of the world we live in, I shouldn’t be puzzled that people reject God. If they reject love they must also reject the God who is love. If people choose to live without having friends they will also reject the God who offers us His friendship. Rejection of God flows from rejection of life.
 
For us who are here it is different. We are here wanting to accept and receive God’s offer of Himself to us. There are times when it is more blessed to receive than to give, to humbly and gratefully receive the gift of God. In so doing we give honor and glory to the Giver, to the Giver of His own life, to the Giver of everlasting life with Him in heaven.
 
Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city:” Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!
 
God’s Word made flesh, Christ Jesus, calls out to you and me once again here in this church: “Take and eat; this is my Body. Take and drink, this is my blood. I am marrying you, giving myself to you forever in love. Nothing can make me not love you. I am yours forever.”
 
How can anyone possibly refuse such love and not receive such a gift? Such is the mystery of evil. But we are here now to receive the gift of Love made flesh.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”