Sunday, Aug. 19, is the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:2-7, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58.

In the first century, the number of believers in the true God was vanishingly small. The world was swallowed in pagan darkness, and the wicked emperors of Rome ruled the Mediterranean world. No wonder St. Paul said that “the days are evil.”

Today, we also live in evil days. So many have turned away from God, falling back into the same lies and deceptions that filled the pagan world. Like St. Paul and the first Christians, we even face the prospect of persecution for our faith.

This is why we must be wise: “Be careful, then, how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time” that is given to us. Fortunately, God is willing to supply us with the wisdom we need. By listening to God’s word, we heed the call: “You that are simple, turn in here! ... Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Sometimes the insights God gives are surprising from a human perspective. When Jesus declared that he is the Bread of Life and that he would give his flesh for the life of the world, many in his audience “disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” But Jesus did not back down. He didn’t explain away his words as a symbol or a metaphor. Instead, he forcefully declared: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

The message of Christ sometimes contains “hard sayings” like this, but because they come from God himself — the source of all truth — we can rely on them. In contrast to the shrewdness of men, they represent the true wisdom that leads to eternal life.

That God has shared such amazing insights with us is cause for rejoicing, and we have a duty to tell others of the wonders God has prepared for us, both in this life and the next: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” By doing so, we shine a light in the darkness around us and help bring the light of Christ to every soul with which we share the Gospel. It’s often said it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness, and sharing the wisdom of God with others is a key part of our mission as Christians. It is one way that light triumphs over darkness.

Another way the light triumphs is by refusing to give in to all the causes of disappointment we face. The fact that God is working in our lives is a constant source of hope. Even though the days in which we live may be evil, we can still lead lives of great joy, for we know God himself, the font of goodness and joy. This makes it possible — no matter what difficulties or dangers we face — for Christians to always sing “hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”

Jimmy Akin is the senior apologist at Catholic Answers,

a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine

and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live. He blogs at NCRegister.com.