Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
"My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."
The Word This Week
Despite the fact that the theme of Mass today continues that of last Sunday, there is a new twist: in recent weeks we have been looking at the Bread of Life in a very figurative or spiritual way: today we come right down to (literally) fleshy realities: food and drink, flesh and blood. As we shall see, this is too much for the Jews to swallow, and they will desert Jesus after what he says today. How far we have come from a few weeks ago when the crowds flocked over the lake to find Jesus after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand! Despite the complexity of the message, and the reaction of the crowd, there is an elegant simplicity about it all, which the first reading and the response to the psalm highlight: there we hear a simple invitation: "Come and eat, come and drink!" and "Taste and see." Ignorance and folly disappear when they are surrendered to the generosity of God, and we taste the eternal life that Jesus gives us in himself.
Notes for Readers
This reading looks different on the page, and it should be read in a different way from usual. It is a poem, and the short lines are very deliberate. As with most poetry, the communication with the listeners is more on a level of pictures, ideas and emotions than simple words. Be aware of this, and in your reading put all the colour into the words you are given. For example in line two there is reference to seven pillars; while the meaning of this might remain forever obscure, the image or idea of preparation, splendour and grandeur is carried simply by the reference. Pause after line four: the first four lines are about preparations. Let the proclamation from the city's heights be a proclamation! Stress the open invitation to Wisdom's banquet, and emphasise the last couplet, allowing people to mull on the concept of the ways of perception.
It's amazing, in a way, that words written so long ago can still speak to us today: when you say "This may be a wicked age..." there will be more than a few heads that will nod in agreement. This being the case let these words speak today. Address your congregation, not simply reading words on a page, but transmitting a message that has been entrusted to you for this assembly, for this day. "Be very careful..." is a deliberate emphasis - try comparing it with "be careful..." and see what difference the "very" makes to your tone of voice! Underline the bold assertion in the words "Your lives should redeem it." We are not to run away from the dissipation of the present age, but work in the midst of it, like yeast. The reference to wine is clear: the intoxication of alcohol is compared with the intoxication of the Holy Spirit. A lovely image follows: we should all join in the psalm and hymn when we are together in Church, but we should also continue to sing and chant in our hearts all the time. This is a thought to take away and ponder, both before Mass and afterwards.
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