Let me try something different this time; we shall consider what the Church feeds us from the Table of God’s Word as a delicious and nourishing dish for us to enjoy for our physical and spiritual well-being. These are the ingredients:
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. (cf. Proverbs 9:4)
Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise…do not continue in ignorance. (cf. Ephesians 5:15)
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (cf. John 6:52)
We have Wisdom, offering her choice food, vis-à-vis simple, even ignorant and foolish people. And we have others (identified here as “Jews”) who do not want anything to do with what is offered them. We also have a community of Christians urged to act wisely.
This is indeed an unusual dish, to continue with that analogy; as it is unusual that the Lord Jesus, who talks to us from the pages of John’s gospel, is “different” from the Lord Jesus of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The Jesus of these three gospels speaks in simple parables and in plain language. By comparison, the Jesus of the Gospel of John is complex, mysterious, with veiled hints and lofty concepts that are, often, very hard to understand.
The Lord Jesus living in us and with us, in our parishes, is also somewhat “different.” We claim, indeed, to believe that Jesus is in our midst and that he relates to us and that he expects a response from us. We could specify that the Lord Jesus is present in our midst in several ways: as God’s Word, as a Community united in prayer, in the Eucharistic species, in me as the presiding minister and also in his preferred disguise: in the poor and needy among us.
Obviously, the Lord Jesus, present here today, is much more intelligible, “richer,” if you will, than the Jesus present in the Church of Matthew, Mark and Luke, i.e., of the first and second generation of believers. Our Jesus is more intelligible, “richer” even of the Jesus of the third and fourth generation of believers present in John’s Church.
Why? Simply because, over the centuries, those who considered themselves simple, lacking understanding, have heeded Wisdom’s invitation and have nourished themselves at her generous table. Or, to use St. Paul’s words, they tried to understand what is the will of the Lord and, thus, were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom, this feminine, mysterious figure is a personification, a representation of Jesus Christ who urges those among his disciples (us included), who consider themselves simple and lacking in spiritual understanding, to feed at the abundant Table of his teachings (Word) and of his Flesh and Blood (Eucharistic species).
So, the ingredients of this delicious, heavenly dish that had nourished the faithful over the centuries include simply Jesus as Wisdom and Jesus as Bread of life, i.e., his sacramental Flesh and Blood. In keeping with the analogy of being a special dish, once assembled in its ingredients, it has to be placed in the “oven” of love ignited by the Holy Spirit. It is a dish that must be eaten piping hot, not as individuals, in isolation, but as a Community, as the Body of Christ.
“…addressing one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything.” (cf. Ephesians 5:19)
Giving thanks always. This is the closest meaning of the word “Eucharist:” giving thanks, as a Community, for everything, because the Eucharist is meant to be the summit, heart, core and soul of our entire life on this earth and of our endless future in heaven.
At this point, we should notice the fact that this ‘simple dish’ is not so simple after all. Those who are not convinced of and are not anguished on account of their spiritual poverty, those who are self-sufficient, those who think they are a cut above the rest and are self-absorbed, are, by choice, destined to wither in their foolishness as they look elsewhere for their nourishment.
Tragically, too many choose substitutes for this simple dish that is Jesus as the Bread of Life. They choose to get high on wine, (as Paul indicates in verse 18) or drugs, or speed, or pornography, or any other debasing form of slavery. Others choose to eat by themselves, away from the festive atmosphere recommended by the Lord Jesus; consequently, they experience frustration, isolation, anger, restlessness, sadness and bewildered jealousy whenever they wonder why they are not as happy as they should be.
My dear fellow guests at the Table of the Lord, hopefully our appreciation of the Eucharist has grown a tiny bit, now, in the power of the Spirit of Jesus. May the Holy Spirit keep us always humble and aware of our spiritual poverty and very, very “hungry” for Jesus. May the Holy Spirit help us understand the conditions necessary for us to have God’s Life in us and to remain, to abide in Him as a Community of faith, without interruptions, without painful separations, for ever and ever.