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Aug 21, 2015 Written by 

20th Sunday in ordinary time year B (16th August, 2015) Be the first to comment!

Theme: To be on the safe side choose wisdom

Readings like these offer us an opportunity for evaluating the quality of its liturgy, particularly its Eucharistic worship. For example, when Jesus fed the crowd with five loaves and two fish, the disciples served as ministers of his gift; it was their privilege and responsibility to distribute the bread to all, to be sure that all were satisfied, to collect the fragments left over and only then to share in the food Jesus provided. In our liturgies, we often confuse the symbols of the scriptures as they are revealed with the gestures that we liturgically act out, without thinking that we are contradicting the gospel. Eucharistic ministers, today, are those who, like the first disciples, serve the community, feed the faithful and wait on those in the crowd. But if we followed the text of the story and its symbolism, the priest and the Eucharistic ministers -the public disciples- would give out the Eucharist first and then eat what is left over, if there is anything left over. Perhaps this simple reversal of procedures would drive home an important point regarding our ministry to one another. To be a disciple is to be a servant like Jesus, who put the needs of others ahead of his own. Discipleship means to offer one’s time, talent and treasure as food for the many hungers of God’s people. Like Jesus, the disciple must have a capacity for compassion that overcomes conceit and self-centeredness with concern for the other.

Another aspect which merits some consideration is the Eucharistic assembly’s responsibility for ministering to the poor. Worship is as much about physical hunger as it is about prayers, rituals and symbols. Our tables, refrigerators and cupboards tell as much about our worship and relationship with God as our Churches and ministries and altars. If we who share the bread of word and sacrament can eat until we are satisfied, then that act of worship must be allowed to proceed to its logical conclusion. True and authentic Eucharistic worship demands that the hungry be fed by me, by us. Without an active concern for the needs of the poor, the liturgy is incomplete. Originally, the Eucharistic liturgy was celebrated in the context of a shared meal. Recall the problems which arose in Corinth; the integrity of the Eucharist was threatened by the fact that the food brought for the common meal was not generously shared among all present. Some brought fine food and ate their fill; others with lesser means went hungry or dined only on poorer fare. Paul understood the damage that such a breach could effect and warned against it. Only when the poor are well fed by the generosity of the assembled community is the Eucharist complete.

As the Church grew and developed, Christians were encouraged to continue to serve the hungry by bringing food to the Eucharistic liturgy. Gradually, the needs of the hungry began to be met, not by the offering of food but through the collection of money from the assembly. In the 16th century, the Council of Trent affirmed the five things needed to celebrate the Eucharist: the people, the bread and wine, the scriptural word, a collection for the poor and a presider or celebrant. If any one of these requisites is lacking, then the liturgy lacks authenticity. As we ponder the gifts that have been given to us to share yet again today, and as we are fed to satisfaction by both bread and word, we are also challenged to recognize and satisfy the hungers of the poor among us as well as those outside the doors of our church. If these, also, are not fed and satisfied, then I shall have heard the word of God and eaten and drunk the body and blood of the Lord to my own condemnation.

First reading: Proverbs 9:1-6

Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the book of Proverbs is an anthology of early and late sapiential material which received its final form and editing centuries after Israel’s reputedly wise king, probably during the post-exilic period and perhaps as late as the 3rd century B.C. Predominant among Proverbs’ literary forms is the mashal, meaning, a pithy saying based on a comparison. These sayings, once probed and understood became words to live by, thereby affirming the other meaning of mashal, meaning, to rule. Today’s text is part of an extended mashal which compares wisdom and folly. This mashal constitutes the book’s tenth instruction and forms a climactic conclusion to the previous eight chapters of Proverbs which argued for the superiority of wisdom over foolishness and appealed to the humble to choose well and wisely.

Personified as two women, wisdom is depicted as a lady and gracious person whereas folly is represented as a harlot. Each has built a house, prepared a feast and invited guests to come and enjoy what she has to offer. Ironically the invitations of the two hostesses are worded identically, “let whoever is simple turn in here; to him who lacks understanding I say. . .” Proverbs 9:4,16. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Wisdom’s banquet, laden with meat and wine imparts life to those who share in it and learn the way of wisdom. Folly’s table, with its offering of stolen water and pilfered bread, leads to death cf. Proverbs 9:17. In fact the banquet chamber of folly is a tomb from which no one who enters it is released!

Ultimately, the choice for life or death hinges upon which invitation is accepted. As a people of today we may wonder whether given these consequences, anyone would actually be mindless enough to choose folly over wisdom. My humble assessment is that the two may not seem equal but since Wisdom’s banquet requires a long period of learning, the lure of quick pleasure offered by Folly easily captures many. Take it upon yourself not to be the next victim.

Second reading: Ephesians 5:15-20

Continuing to contrast the ways of the wise with those of the foolish St Paul is concerned that the Ephesians make the best use of the time and opportunities available to them. Prevalent in the early Church was the sense that the end was near and that the last days before the end would be characterized as evil ones cf. Ephesians 5:16, filled with woes, distress and tribulation. The last times are better understood as the proper combination of two times: the eschatological era which has been inaugurated in the person and mission of Jesus and secular time, sometimes so ambiguous and equivocal. The danger lies in opting for one or the other of these times to the exclusion of the other. Accordingly, the presence of true wisdom should be patent in the life of the believer who, by virtue of that wisdom will not fritter away his/her energies in careless, thoughtless living. Rather, the grace-filled disciple of Jesus lives each day empowered by a full and thoroughgoing faith. The process of integrating faith with life that is, of allowing the faith that is professed to be realized and to influence every aspect of the human experience; is one which begins in and finds its fullest expression in prayer particularly in Eucharistic liturgy.

The fact that St Paul was actually thinking of the liturgical life of the community is confirmed by the references to psalms, hymns and inspired songs cf. Ephesians 5:19 as well as the exhortation to “give thanks”/eucharisteia to God in Ephesians 5:20. Although the warning against drunkenness and debauchery especially in a liturgical context seems surprising cf. Ephesians 5:18; we ought to recall the fact that the community’s Eucharistic liturgies were originally celebrated within the context of a common meal. We can also recall Paul’s complaint against the Corinthian Christians that “some go hungry; other gorge themselves,” 1Corinthians 11:21 literary meaning that they are drunk. Continuing in this same vein of thought, St. Paul recommends that believers should shun the ‘high’ that comes from too much wine and leads nowhere, in favor of spiritual inebriation. Those tempted to steel themselves against evil days by taking refuge in drink/drugs and what have you are called to be strengthened against their fears and foes by the power of the Spirit cf. Ephesians 5:16. This is a wise counsel for all people at all times.

Gospel: John 6:51-58

Traditionally, Christian artists have represented each of the evangelists by one of the figures of the four living creatures gathered around the throne of God in Revelation 4:7. The first creature, reassembling a lion, was regarded as a symbol of Matthew who portrayed Jesus as the promised messiah and Lion of the tribe of Judah. Luke was represented by a calf or ox because it was an animal of service and sacrifice and because Luke understood Jesus to be the suffering servant whose sacrifice effected universal salvation. Mark was depicted as a man because his gospel was deemed the simplest, straightforward and the most human. John was symbolized by an eagle because of the bird’s uncanny and accurate vision. When compared with the synoptics, the fourth gospel was thought to be the result of the most penetrating insight into the truths of the faith and into the very mind and will of God. In today’s gospel, John conducts us, with piercing insight, into the heart of the mystery of the Eucharist.

The whole of John 6 reflects the liturgical setting of a Christian Passover-Paschal feast which remembered the gifts of the manna in the wilderness, the loaves and fish in Galilee; and Jesus saving death on the cross within the context of a Eucharistic celebration. In the lengthy bread of life discourse cf. John 6:22-59, the evangelist and his later redactors have alternated in describing Jesus’ gift of bread as being either sapiential/sacramental in character. At times, the bread of life refers to Jesus’ teaching and revelation which is sapiential; elsewhere in the discourse, the accent is on the Eucharistic gift of Jesus himself which is sacramental.

Notice that St. John emphasis is not on believing in the bread of life but on eating the living bread which is the flesh and blood of Jesus given for the life of the world. Flesh and blood in Semitic usage meant the whole human person, not just a part of him/her. Flesh and blood constitute the tangible person who is a touchable part of this earthly environment, not merely spirit and truth and concept and abstract thought but a concrete human being.

Although John’s is the latest gospel, I can attest that it preserved a more ancient and authentic tradition by using flesh rather than body as in the Pauline and synoptic writings. Moreover, the term flesh recalled the fact of the incarnation: the word became flesh and dwelled among us. John underscored the connection between the incarnation and the Eucharist by calling Jesus ‘the living bread come down from heaven’ who gives his ‘flesh for the life of the world’. In the living bread of the Eucharist, all the great moments of the Christ event are present; that is, the incarnation, the passion, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus. To believe in Jesus’ teaching and to eat of his flesh is to become a participant in and beneficiary of every aspect of that saving event here and now and forever. At each Eucharistic encounter, we who feed on Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood are also privileged to grow in knowledge thus entering into a personal relationship of God and thereby being in position of having a share in eternal life cf. John 17:3.

Application

In life we must opt for wisdom rather that folly no matter how long and demanding this may be.

We need to make sure that we do not fall victims of foolishness by diverting our attention to destructors such as gluttony, taking refuge in drinking and other vices. Jesus who is our Eucharist ought to be enough for us if we are truly his disciples.  As today’s gospel affirms, the one who feeds. . . and drinks, already has eternal life and will be raised up on the last day cf. John 6:54. This fusion of realized and final eschatology is present whenever and wherever the community gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist inspires confidence because Jesus has come to us in our flesh and gives us this flesh because we do not know how to come to him. He is where we are and we have no cause to fear since he is not far away. Daily, Jesus gives us his flesh and blood to eat and drink so that we can attain eternal life. Today therefore, let us all purify ourselves to come to the altar of the Lord Jesus.

 

2056
Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo is a Comboni Missionary Priest. He holds a PhD in Moral Theology from Academia Alphonsiana Lateran University Rome. Currently he is the Assistant Parish Priest Our Lady of Africa Mbuya- Kampala and Secretary Missionary Animation Comboni Missionaries Uganda. For the last twenty years he has worked as missionary in Kenya where he served in various capacities as National Youth Chaplain, Secretary of National Lay Apostolate, Secretary and Director Missionary Animation, Parish Priest Holy Trinity Kariobangi, Director of Radio Waumini Kenya, Program presenter of Know Your Faith Vatican Radio, Staff writer with National Mirror and New People Magazine, Theologian of Kenya Episcopal Conference, Dean of Eastland’s, Visiting Lecturer on Ethics, Social Doctrine to various Universities, Board Member various Colleges and Secondary Schools, member of College of Consultors Archdiocese of Nairobi, Theologian Delegate to the Second Africa Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace and Synod on New Evangelization for transmission of Christian faith.

Tel 0787058387

Email: Pmondo@ourladyofafrica.org

Website: www.ourladyofafrica.org

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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