19 Aug


(A biblical refection on THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – August 19, 2012) 

First Reading: Prov 9:1-6; Psalms: Ps 34:2-3,10-15 ; Second Reading: Eph 5:15-20; Gospel Reading: Jn 6:51-58 

The world of advertising often appeals to our basic human needs for food and drink. Television commercials like Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” cater to our hunger for food. Magazine ads with slogans like Coca-Cola’s “It’s the real thing” claim that their drink will satisfy our thirst.

The whole express purpose of advertisers is to sell us the good life by promising that their products will satisfy our every desire. We might say that today’s readings make their own sales pitch for the good life, except that they speak about life in a higher sense.

In the first reading from Proverbs, Wisdom invites us to come to her table where we can eat her food and drink her wine. She calls us to forsake foolishness that we may live and advance in the way of understanding.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that He Himself gives life to the world. His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink. Anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever.

In his Pelican commentary on this text, John Marsh underlines the meaning of the adjective real in the phrases real food and real drink:

These are what satisfy those hungers and thirst from which men suffer in distinction from all other earthly creatures. Man’s genuine nourishment lies in them; without them the really “human” person dies, even though he continues to live in the flesh, but with them he lives the life that is really life both here in the course of history and in that which lies beyond history in the world to come.

We can better appreciate Marsh’s insight if we compare some of the extravagant claims of advertisers to satisfy our needs for this life with the claims of Christ to give us life in a higher sense.

Since we have a need for the pleasures of oral gratification, many of us want to have our “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should.” But there are also spiritual delights which today’s Psalm 34 addresses when it says: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

From time to time we have a need to escape from boredom and monotony. So to answer our need we have airline ads like United’s beckoning us to “Fly away in our friendly skies.”

Yet when we are weary, only the Lord can really refresh us in the fullest sense: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

We naturally seek security and protection for ourselves and our families. So insurance companies like Prudential propose to give us a “Piece of the Rock” of security.

Nonetheless, only Jesus can promise and guarantee us eternal life: “The man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”

It seems that no matter what our basic needs are, advertisers claim they have the product or service to provide for them. Yet, contrary to their claims, what they offer is not the real thing at all, but only an illusion, a fantasy, a substitute. To verify this, for example, a male customer need only compare his car on a cold winter morning with the television model accompanied by a warm female.

Advertisers shout about the essentials of life, but offer things that are merely superficial. It is only Christ who can show us how to really live and to live more abundantly.

What Jesus gives in the Eucharist is not an illusion. It is real food and real drink. What Jesus gives is not something superficial. It is His own body and His own blood. What Jesus gives is not a temporary gratification. It is a life that will last forever.

Note: Taken from Albert Cylwicki CSB, His Word Resounds, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1991, pages 174-176.

Jakarta, 19 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim


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