Having just seen the ocean from a distance and longing to dive right in – one of my favorite metaphors for going deeper into mystery – I was drawn by the first line of the first reading to the topic of Wisdom this morning. Staying on the surface, taking things literally, does not allow us to understand the depths of things, perhaps especially when we are speaking of faith.
When Proverbs (9:1-6) tells us that Wisdom has built herself a house, we know that it would be impossible for a concept, an abstract characteristic, to accomplish such an architectural feat. So the author reminds us to forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding, and in this case that is easily done. Not so easy with the psalm refrain that sings (for the second time recently): Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. (PS 34) Paul is right there with advice about how to deal with that one as he says to the Ephesians (5:15-20) Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise…Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of God.
All of that is preamble to the crux of the message in this morning’s Scripture readings. It is John’s gospel that contains more of the “hard sayings” than the others, and the hardest of all is perhaps what we hear this morning (JN 6:51-58). Jesus says that whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. Theologians have wrestled with this “article of faith” throughout the history of Christianity and belief in interpretation varies, but I’m thinking this morning of how shocking it must have been for those crowds of people who were listening to those words spoken for the first time by Jesus – probably most of them having no concept of metaphor or any way to understand what is obviously a deeper truth than the surface meaning.
It is the word remain that is the touchstone for me as I participate in Eucharistic liturgies and trust that something of Christ’s life remains in my spirit as the Eucharistic species are assimilated into my body. The more conscious I become about that truth, the more I will understand what Jesus was talking about on that shocking, long ago day. Then, and only then, will I be transformed, forsaking the foolishness that says I am separated from others and coming to trust the wisdom of knowing that we are all one, as Jesus knew and lived, and lives still in us.