Dame Wisdom calls out to us this morning: “Come and eat of my bread and drink of my wine; come to the feast I have prepared for you.” She is the personification of the way to God. Those who accept her invitation will feast on the things of God. However, right across the street from her house with seven columns is another house. Another figure stands outside this house and also invites the passers-by to come and sup with her. She is the counterpart of Dame Wisdom; she is Dame Folly. She is heard to say: “Stolen water is sweet, and bread taken secretly is pleasing!” The difference between these two meals is that one of them will lead us to understanding the way of the Lord. The other meal will trap us in the tomb that is foolishness, a tomb from which no one ever escapes. Wisdom asks us to stay close to the way of God, the path of righteousness, a life spent obeying the commandments. Such a life will lead us to a closeness with God.
The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians picks up this theme and warns us not to live as foolish persons, but rather to understand the Will of the Lord. He uses the image of inebriation or drunkenness as one kind of foolishness and admonishes us to drink in the Spirit which will lead us to singing songs and psalms and hymns to God, giving thanks to God for the gifts won for us in Jesus. Last week’s reading from the Letter to the Ephesians enumerated those gifts as kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. These gifts lead us to life with God.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus also invites us to eat and drink. He offers his body and blood as food and drink. It is a simple meal of consecrated bread and wine. Though not lavish in appearance, it promises to enrich us in ways beyond our imagination, and the invitation to eat and drink is open to all who place their faith in Jesus. He gives us himself as food and drink to enliven us, to nourish us, and to strengthen us. The grace that we receive from this feast is both sanctifying and actual. We are made holy by the presence of Jesus in our midst, his life and our lives united in this simple meal. We are also given the strength to avoid the temptation to feast with Dame Folly.
Jesus’ words today are a bold claim and difficult to understand. However, it is not necessary to understand how God does what God does. The Scriptures are full of mysteries that cannot be explained in language that we will comprehend. What Jesus asks of us is faith in him, in his redemptive sacrifice and his life-giving resurrection.
There are those who look at the Eucharist and see nothing but a symbol. However, Jesus did not say anything about a symbolic meal. Claiming that the Eucharist is merely a symbol is like claiming that a meal of bread and water is a symbol of a dinner of steak and ale. Jesus assures us that He is the true bread come down from heaven, that he has given us his body as a sacrifice to keep us strong in faith and that eternal life is the reward we can claim if we believe. For those who believe, nothing more is necessary. For those who do not have faith, nothing will make it easier to believe.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator