We can pray these days in preparation with all the ways Jesus uses our hands which received Him to reach out to share Him. We pray with His desire shared with us, to give life to this world. We pray with all the ways we also argue and murmur about those things in our lives and the lives of others which are beyond our intellectual understanding. Arguing is a part of relating, it is not a bad thing. We pray to humbly surrender before the mysteries of God and God’s ways.
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings reflective of the people of Israel’s struggling with life’s human problems. There is always the question about how should one act in this circumstance or that. In the verses immediately following our First Reading there is a discussion about how to handle “mockers”. There are proverbs touching most human and relational situations. The usual proverb reverses the instinctual and impulsive reactions. This is then what is called, Wisdom, that is a way of looking at the human way through the lens of Faith.
In our First Reading for today, this Wisdom is personified, that is pictured in human form presenting herself as an inviting hostess. Her house is built, her table set and her servants have gone out to call for responses.
Apparently those who are “simple” and not Foolish” will “turn in” to her house. To those who lack “understanding”, she offers a meal which will lead to that kind of understanding which leads to harmony. This Wisdom is not found in the books on the “How-to-do-it” shelf of the local bookstore. The Wisdom of the people of God wrestled with the big and little questions and problems of life. They, as we do in our times, found that there were two ways of dealing with these human tensions.
The human way is based on strength, wit, strategy, retaliation, and rashness. Do what comes naturally, “an eye for an eye” would be the non-reflective impulse.
The Wisdom-way is less a “how-to” than a “why-to” manner of responding rather than reacting. The real “why-to” is that there is a personal God, rather than fate or chance, operating within the human experiences of life and relationships. There is always more than meets the eye, there is more going on than is going on.
God sets the table of life and invites those who know that they do not know it all, to come and eat of a wisdom which takes time to chew, digest, and gain nourishment. The “house” she has built is not just the world, but more personally, the house is the body and mind and life of each person. For her, the foolish are those who are blinded by what they merely see, deafened by what they hear.
The Gospel reading continues the discussion between Jesus and His fellow Jews who find His teachings difficult. Of course they would, because His words are referring to their having to “eat” His Flesh and “drink” His blood. They are faithful to their ancient traditions and hold tightly to the history of God’s having created their nation and preserved them many times. They celebrated faithfully the Exodus and the feeding in the desert with “manna” which was bread from heaven. This is sacred history and Jesus is inviting them to something new and terribly puzzling to their minds and religious senses.
Jesus is handed to the world as the Word Made Flesh. He is handing on the Word of Life in His teachings and will hand over His Flesh in the New Passover, the New Exodus and the New Feeding of His flesh after handing it over on the cross. The Table is set and He is the Servant. The danger in reading these verses is the “Ticket” mentality. In theaters and stadiums we buy a ticket and we are allowed in, no questions asked. What we do with what we watch is our business. We can walk out half way during the movie, because of the low quality, or leave the ball game, because our team is doing poorly. As a young lad, I remember clearly leaving at the end of cowboy movies quite influenced by the daring courage of the hero. I pretended I was on a horse by slapping both hands on my right hip while galloping toward home, and looking out for anybody looking suspicious or cruel. That intensity of character lasted until I reached home and the wife of the owner of the ranch was my mother who would tell me to wash up and do my homework.
In these eight verses, Jesus refers to “life” and “living” nine times. So the eating of His Flesh and the drinking of His Blood is not a divinely-punched ticket and that’s all there is to that. The faith which moves us to eat and drink of this tremendous surprise, is to be lived in the washing of our hands, the doing of our homework, and all the other experiences of life through which Jesus moves. This is the Wisdom come down from heaven. This is the faith which frees us to see more than we are looking at, both in the liturgy of the Eucharist and the liturgy of our lives.
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