SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Prov 9:1-6; Ps 34:2-3, 10-15; Eph 5:15-20; Jn 6:51-58 ]
We all want to live. But it is not just living; we want to live the fullness of life, a life of joy, purpose and meaning. How can we have this life? In the final analysis, happiness and meaning in life is about whether one is living a life of folly or a life of wisdom. This is the question we are invited to reflect on. All the three scripture readings speak about living an intelligent life, a life of wisdom. St Paul wrote, “Be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, like intelligent and not like senseless people.” And in the first reading, Wisdom invites us to come and partake of His love and life. “She has slaughtered her beasts, prepared her wine, she has laid her table. She has dispatched her maidservants and proclaimed from the city’s heights: ‘Who is ignorant? Let him step this way.'”
What does a life of folly consist of? It is to live on the level of an animal. That is to say, we live on the dimension of the senses and particularly on pleasure. Such people equate happiness as having good food to eat, wine to drink, living a luxurious life of physical comfort. Whilst these gifts are certainly from God, when we live merely on this level, we are living a sub-standard life. We are not just constituted of body but also of spirit. We have a mind and a heart that longs for the aesthetic and intellectual things of life.
A life of folly is when we live only for ourselves, thinking that we can find happiness when we care for ourselves. When we make ourselves the center of the universe and serve only our interests in life, we lose all meaning and purpose. The truth is that we are made for love, for giving and for others. Man is not an island. We find our purpose and meaning in life only when we love and share with others. It is only when we find authentic friendships through the giving of oneself in love and service that we find ourselves. We maximize our potentials in life not by having people serve us but when we expand ourselves and our resources in serving others.
Thirdly, a life of folly is when we live for the things of this world, be it power, glory or wealth. When we are driven by such pursuits in life, we become ruthless, heartless and ambitious. We create enemies, and we treat all others as competitors to our goal. But security and happiness in life is not determined by how much we have. We remember the parable of the rich fool when the Lord said to the farmer, “‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Lk 12:20f) What is the use of having all the things of this earth but we are poor in love and poor in friends?
Instead, the scripture readings invite us to the table of Wisdom, the rich banquet of life that the Lord wants to offer us. Life in scripture is always portrayed in terms of a banquet where there is love, joy, celebration and food. To come to this table of banquet, we are called to come to the Lord who will teach us how to live an authentic life of everlasting joy and happiness on this earth and in the life to come. Indeed, this is what Wisdom in the first reading is inviting us to. “To the fool she says, ‘Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared! Leave your folly and you will live, walk in the ways of perception.'”
If we want to live the fullness of life, a life of wisdom, an enlightened life, then we must come to Jesus. “As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.” To draw life from Jesus, we need to be in full communion with Him. Jesus said, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” Partaking of His body and blood is the way in which the Lord lives in us. Through the sacramental Eucharist, the Lord comes into our lives. It is through the Eucharist that we share in His Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is given to us when we receive the Eucharist.
But receiving the Eucharist superstitiously will not bring us life unless we know what we are eating. This explains why 98% of our Catholics receive the Eucharist at every mass but few lives are transformed because they do not recognize what and whom they are receiving. It is merely a ritual that they go through without thinking and understanding. Hence, St Paul said, “And do not be thoughtless but recognise what is the will of the Lord. Do not drug yourselves with wine, this is simply dissipation; be filled with the Spirit.”
To receive the Eucharist, is to enter into the life of Christ. We become what we eat. So what we eat at the Eucharist is first and foremost the Word of God. Jesus is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He was first and foremost the manna of God, the Word of God in person, both by His words and His life. That is why, Jesus said, “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” This means that we come into contact with the person of our Lord principally through the Word of God since it tells us about Jesus, and through our worship and contact with Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist and also made present in the body of Christ, the Christian community. This is why we should draw life from Christ and His body the Church so that we can share with others.
To receive the Eucharist is to celebrate communion with each other and with Him. A banquet is not a private dinner but a celebration of love. Life is meaningful only when it is shared with others. In receiving the Eucharist, we are called to die to individualism and to be one with others, sharing our life and our love. As we share ourselves with others, we find life more meaningful because we are no longer alone. We are called to be in one communion of love. That is why the Eucharist we receive is called communion. It is supposed to strengthen our union with Christ and with our fellow Christians. Together as one Church and as His body, we support and encourage each other in living out the gospel life.
What, then, is the life of Christ, that life of wisdom? It is a life that is lived for others. The whole life of Jesus was given up for us. Fullness of life is ours when we “do this in memory” of Him by imitating Him in surrendering our lives for the good of our fellowmen. St Paul in Ephesians wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Concretely it means to give up a self-centered life and the worship of self.” (cf Eph 5:1-4)
Secondly, it is a life that is lived in the light, in truth and honesty. “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (cf Eph 5:8-13) Indeed, only when we live a life of integrity, can we find true freedom because we have no fear that we would be discovered one day for living a double life or a hypocritical life. To live in the light is what makes us happy with ourselves, living with a clear conscience, and standing tall before man without fear of anyone, even those in power.
Thirdly, an enlightened life is one that is lived in such a way that we give glory to God in whatever we do and say. This is what St Paul meant when he wrote, “Sing the words and tunes of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, so that always and everywhere you are giving thanks to God who is our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we are doing God’s will and giving Him thanks in everything we do, glorifying Him by the way we speak, the way we act and the way we live, such is already a blessed life, a life that is lived in God and with God. In this way, we already share in the life of God, now and to the fullest in the life to come.
So let us live life to the fullest by living a life of wisdom. This is the only way to not just save ourselves but the world as well. St Paul wrote, “This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.” This is the best form of witnessing, not by our words but by our very life, for that is what the Lord said, “the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” So let us be life-givers through the very life that we live, a life that is lived in Christ, with Christ and for Christ. This is the true meaning of eating His bread and drinking His blood so that we might have life to the fullest.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.