20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (2)

Today the table is ready and Wisdom, symbolized in today’s First Reading as a woman, but also experienced in our lives as the Word made flesh, invites us to a more profound banquet. Our Lord invites the Jews in today’s Gospel, and each one of us, to go beyond the limits of our reason, our human knowledge and earthly understanding, so that we approach the Lord’s table and eat and drink him, true food and true drink.

Wisdom invites us in today’s First Reading to come to her banquet and experience wisdom through the path of understanding. Experience is what helps us not only experience something, but Someone. Experience influences out decisions, actions, and attitudes. It either leads us down the path of kindness or the path of wickedness. If we take the wrong path we’ll understand nothing and, little by little, our intelligence and will start to wane, like the drunk to which St. Paul alludes in today’s Second Reading. Life soon gets out of hand. Wisdom, the path of understanding, helps us stay on course, always moving toward the true banquet to which we are invited: the Lord’s banquet.

Today’s Second Reading aptly summarizes the discourse we’ve been considering over the last few Sundays regarding the Eucharist. Instead of seeking the fleeting pleasure of wine and remaining in ignorance, Our Lord is inviting his listeners to be filled with the Spirit and to partake of the banquet of his Body and his Blood and to grow in knowledge through faith in him. The path of wisdom and understanding is not just taken through experience, but also under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in faith. Wisdom ultimately is not just something, but Someone: Our Lord.

In today’s Gospel the Lord reminds the Jews of the long path tread by their forefathers. The Lord has guided us on this path toward the true banquet for a long time, step by step, through a series of individual and collective experiences, always with the goal of eternal life. The path from here to eternity is very long. Our Lord reminds the Jews how their forefathers were sustained by manna in the desert before entering the Promised Land, as recalled by the Old Testament. However, those forty years in the desert, and the centuries that followed in the history of Israel and humanity, were just steps toward the definitive goal: eternal life.

Like Wisdom personified as a woman in the First Reading the Lord prepared everything for the banquet, everything to give those dear to him an understanding and experience of his life in the Eucharist. That understanding and experience go beyond our human reasonings, knowledge, and earthly understanding, without denying their validity. The Jews in today’s Gospel are arguing and trying to understand the Eucharist just with human reasonings, and they’re unable. They’re not capable of seeing the spiritual order of things with faith, and it is faith that would enable them to take the next step forward: a step into the spiritual order of things through faith in Our Lord as sent by God. Through faith in Our Lord they’ll be led, step by step, to the eternal banquet, the Eucharist, which in this life appears under the signs of bread and wine, but in the future, in eternity, will be with the Lord, face to face.

Our Lord not only teaches; he reveals. Accepting revelation is about trusting and believing the revealer. In today’s Gospel the Lord reveals something, but they want to understand it before they believe it. A believer starts with believing, and then works it out. The Eucharist is a perfect example of something you have to believe before you can try to start understanding it. Has the Lord revealed something in your life that you’re trying to understand before believing? A Church teaching? A lifestyle? Take the step of faith and you’ll understand.

Readings: Proverbs 9:1–6; Psalm 34:2–7; Ephesians 5:15–20; John 6:51–58. See also 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.