The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Redeeming the time

“Now is an acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.”

2Corinthians 6:2 (cf. Isaiah 49:8)

Sunday, August 19, 2012
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Proverbs 9:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says in John 14:6. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in today’s Gospel, he says: “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.”

Thus the Eucharistic theme central to the Sunday Mass readings for the last several weeks culminates with Jesus’ firm teaching today that “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 …”

Eating and drinking each day, several times a day, sustains life for our mortal bodies. If we don’t eat or get proper nourishment, we die. And even if we do eat properly, we still eventually die. By contrast, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” And so Jesus reasserts the connection between time and eternity that had been splintered in the Garden of Eden. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that led to death gives way to eating from the Tree of Life so that we “may have life and have it abundantly,” as Jesus says (John 10:10). Since by the first act, to our detriment we chose earthly food over heavenly food, the Son of God gives his flesh for the life of the world on the Cross—heavenly food under the species of earthly food. God became man so that man might become God, to share eternal life with his Creator—beginning right now in our earthly lives. In this way, the full purpose of the Incarnation is revealed. “As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ,” as St. Paul says (1Corinthians 15:22).

In other words, in Christ, Eternal Divinity redeems human time. God becomes part of it, and it a part of him, to point it toward heaven. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes our spiritual food in the form of earthly bread and wine, so that we who are broken may be made whole and then, in turn, share ourselves for the life of the world. It is the principal means by which Christ dwells among us—as the mystical Body of Christ.

This is why in today’s second reading St. Paul tells the Ephesians to make “the most of the opportunity” (5:16). Here is one instance where the New American Bible translation loses something. Translations such as the Douay-Rheims and King James Version have “redeeming the time.” Those words add another dimension of understanding. In this sense, to “redeem” means to purchase something (or someone) in order to remove the object or person from current circumstances and offer freedom. In this way, Christ redeems us from sin, purchasing our freedom from slavery to corruption, with his own life-giving life. And “time” here means not “We have plenty of time before dinner,” but rather, “It’s time for dinner!” It means now, a point in time, the moment of decision, a window of opportunity that will quickly close. It means the train leaves the station at 7:30 a.m., and if you’re not it, you don’t get to where you’d like to go.

The entire sentence in the passage from Ephesians is this: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity (or, "redeeming the time"), because the days are evil.” The last phrase, “because the days are evil,” is the key to it all. With our own lives, nourished and sustained by Christ who gave his life for the world, we are to live accordingly and thereby purchase the current moment from the grip of evil. “Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord,” St. Paul continues.

So “making the most of the opportunity” means much more than living life to the fullest and grabbing all the gusto one can muster. It means striving to do God’s will at every turn, at each and every moment. “Redeeming the time,” St. Augustine says, “means sacrificing, when the need arises, present interests in favor of eternal ones, thereby purchasing eternity with the coin of time.”

It means that as Eucharistic people, we must rescue our everyday lives from the pattern that has been set by that bite of food in the Garden of Eden. We, as Christ, must transform the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which our parents brazenly dared to snatch equality with God, into the Tree of Life, from which Christ feeds the world .
It is a matter of life and death, and there is no time to waste.

“The eyes of all creatures look to you, O Lord,
and you give them their food in due time.”

Psalm 145:15

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