Sunday Sermon for August 19, 2012, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Prov 9:1-6; Eph 5:15-20; Jn 6:51-58

In the first reading today the Lord calls upon us to forsake foolishness and in the second reading St. Paul instructs us to live, not as foolish persons but as wise. None of us likes to be thought to be foolish, but we have to strive for real wisdom, not just appearing wise so as not to be thought a fool. The latter is simply selfishness and an attachment to what people think of us; it is not real wisdom.

God is calling us to true wisdom. Most importantly, Jesus is often known among the Fathers of the Church as the Wisdom of God or, as St. Louis de Montfort calls Him, the Incarnate Wisdom. This being the case, if we want true wisdom, we need to draw near to Jesus and, as St. Paul tells us, to try to understand what is the will of God.

In many things it is hard to know the will of God. However, if we really want to know His will, the best thing to do is to unite ourselves with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. In the context of the first reading, it seems that to eat the food of Wisdom and drink the wine she has mixed is the way to forsake foolishness and advance in the way of understanding.

In the Gospel our Lord states quite emphatically that His Flesh is true food and His Blood is true drink. Moreover, eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood is the means by which we remain in Him and He in us. What is even more wonderful is that the union with Jesus that comes from eating His Flesh is not just for a time; He says that whoever eats this bread will live forever.

If we can live in Him forever, then it means that we can know God’s will and carry it out for the rest of eternity. This demonstrates our true wisdom. With all of the allusions to the Exodus we have seen in the past few weeks and which we have again today (the quarreling and the reference to their ancestors who ate the bread and died) we have to recall that Moses challenged the people to demonstrate what a truly wise and intelligent people they were by following the Law of God.

We have an opportunity to demonstrate even greater wisdom by being united to the Wisdom of God Himself. The problem for the People of God in the Old Testament is the same as it is today: faith. If it were as simple as recognizing the obvious and accepting it as such no one would have a problem. However, in God’s divine plan, He requires that we have to accept some things that are anything but obvious.

When Jesus told the people of His time that they would have to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, they balked because it sounded like He was asking them to be cannibals. We know from the verses that follow today’s Gospel that the people walked away from Him because of this teaching. Besides all of that, how is it possible that everyone could have even a tiny piece of Jesus? Truly, as St. Paul tells us, the wisdom of God is foolishness to men.

St. Paul was willing to say that he would be a fool for Christ. Are we willing to do the same? In the second reading today St. Paul tells us that we are to make the most of our opportunity because the days are evil. If this was true then, what would he say now? The evil that surrounds us begins with doubt, moves to rejection and ends with ridicule. When people have rejected the wisdom of God they will tend toward human wisdom. Moreover, they usually put down, rather vociferously, what they have rejected.

Today we are surrounded by these people both within and outside of the Church. Because faith in the Wisdom of God is not politically correct or socially acceptable we really do have the opportunity of which St. Paul speaks. We know that God cannot lie and what He has revealed regarding Himself in the Eucharist cannot be denied. For this reason we do not want to continue in ignorance as we are challenged by St. Paul. Rather, we want to embrace wholeheartedly the wisdom of God in the Person of Jesus Christ.

To say this we must understand that it implies the historical Person of Jesus as He was born at Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, walked the streets of Jerusalem and died for us on the Cross. It also implies the Person of Christ as He is present in the Blessed Sacrament. The Person is the same; only the presence is different. In each, it is the Wisdom of God.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit