Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Aug 15, 2021 Views 257 Listen 1 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the first Book of Proverbs (9:1-6)

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: "Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7)

(R) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R)

Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol His name. I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (R)

Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the poor one called out, the Lord heard, and from all his distress He saved him. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (5:15-20)

Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.


A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (6:51-58)

Jesus said to the crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


Today, we continue to read the Bread of Life discourse from the sixth chapter of John's gospel. Just before the discourse, John relates to us that Jesus, out of compassion, had multiplied a small amount of food, that is, five loaves of bread and two fish, into an abundance for many thousands of very hungry people, John (6:1-15). And as a result, the next day, the people sought for Jesus and could not find him in the place they were fed. Nonetheless, eventually when they found him with his disciples in Capernaum they asked him when he had arrived. Instead of answering their question, Jesus told them that they sought him not because of who He is but because of what He can do for them.

He told them not to be so concerned about perishable things like food, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which He as the Son of Man will give them. They immediately thought of Moses who gave their ancestors the supernatural bread "manna" every day for forty years in the desert and demanded Jesus to give them such food, so as to make them believe in Him and never be hungry again. But Jesus corrected them by saying that it was not Moses who gave the food but God the Father, Exodus (16:4).

Jesus then told them that those who ate the manna died eventually anyway, but those who would eat of the bread that comes directly from God, will never die. When the crowd heard of such a thing as the bread of God that gives life, they asked for it always. Sadly, the spiritual meaning of Jesus' words still eluded them. They were more concerned with the condition of their stomachs than the condition of their souls. When they asked him for this bread, Jesus startled them by saying, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst", John (6:35).

In other words, Jesus is the "bread" that God sent to earth so that they might gain eternal life. The people considered Jesus' claim to be "the bread of life" not merely nonsense but also rather blasphemous, and they also began grumbling among themselves over his claim of heavenly origin. Jesus ordered them to stop grumbling about this because He said that no one would come to Him without God drawing them; without being taught by God; and only those who hear and heed God would come to Him.

Jesus went on further than simply associating Himself with bread. He said that the bread which He will give, is his own flesh, "for the life the world", John (6:51). Many of the hearers, perhaps, perfectly understood what Jesus was saying but they could not believe that what He was saying could be true. They were arguing among themselves, "How can this man give his flesh to eat?", John (6:52).

There is no direct statement in the Bible that says, "Thou shall not eat human flesh." However, there are some biblical practices and principles that suggest cannibalism is an evil thing. In the Old Testament, God gave specific dietary instructions to man. For instance, after the flood in the time of Noah, God permitted man to eat the flesh of animals and birds along with seeds, fruits of plants and trees, Genesis (1:19; 1:29; 9;3, 3:19), which were permitted since the beginning of the Creation, (9:3; 1:29). However, God's warning to man not to shed any human blood for He has created all humans in His image is construed as God's prohibition against eating human flesh, Genesis (9:4-6). In addition, the Law of Moses specifically forbids drinking of blood "for the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life", Leviticus (17:10-14).

Penalty for violation of any of the law was expulsion or excommunication from the tribe. So, the Jews regarded the eating of someone's flesh as immoral, unlawful, repugnant and outrageous. But Jesus did not relent nor did he soften the blow. Instead, he pressed on even further by saying that they should also drink his blood. To the hearers, this was even more repulsive. Despite their dissent, Jesus not only reiterated the statement but also strengthened it by saying that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to:

  • have life in them (v.53);
  • obtain eternal life (v.54);
  • resurrect at the last day (v. 55, 56);
  • share life with Jesus, just like that of Jesus and the Father (v.57);
  • live forever (v.58).

Catholic scholars believe that Jesus was actually speaking about real meal. Jesus' invitation to "eat his flesh" and "drink his blood" prefigures His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist which Jesus instituted at the Last supper when He changed the bread and wine into His body and blood which his disciples were commanded to eat and drink in order to live forever. When the flesh and blood are separated, death results. But by taking both, they will partake in His eternal life.

Some scholars, particularly non-Catholics, suggest that Jesus' statement is much more figurative and spiritual than literal. The word "flesh" refers to Jesus a human person in the same way as in John "The Word became flesh", John (1:14). Here, Jesus referred to himself as a bread that nourishes, for the life of the world. His "flesh", his person, is the "bread". He is the Word; and He offers fullness of life to those who accept that he is "from heaven", sent by God the Father to bring salvation to the world. And just as eating and drinking are necessary for physical life, so also is the belief in His Word and His sacrificial death on the cross necessary for eternal life. The eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood, therefore, metaphorically symbolize the need for accepting and believing Jesus' Word and His sacrificial death on the cross.

What is the message for us?

We can take the reference Jesus made to eating his flesh and drinking his blood literally or figuratively, but either way, results in eternal life. Both, believing in Christ and eating His flesh and drinking His blood, lead us to everlasting life.


  • Just as we take food and drink into our body which then become part of us in nourishing and sustaining our life, so too must we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist so that we will have life in us; receive eternal life; rise in the resurrection on the last day; have a mutually abiding relationship; and live forever.
  • As we eat of Jesus, share in the bread and wine or food of His Words, we must look, in faith, to His sacrifice and death on the cross. When we truly turn our life over to our Lord Jesus by believing in Him, He gives us eternal life full of peace and joy.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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