Sunday, Aug. 16 is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). Sunday, Aug. 23 is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Aug. 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption but is not a U.S. holy day of obligation this year, since it falls on a Saturday.


There are plenty of “saint pairs” to note in August.

St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Assumption. After he took the place of another prisoner slated for execution in the Auschwitz concentration camp, he was cremated on the feast of the Assumption, a good day to follow his example and say a prayer of consecration to Mary.

The Assumption and the Coronation. Together, these celebrations point to our final end: We’re made to get where she went, and she’s “on the other side” pulling for us.

St. Monica and St. Augustine. The story of Monica and Augustine, her son, is a great story of how a mother’s simple prayers for her son changed the world.

Aug. 16 Readings

Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:2-3, 10-15; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

Our Take

Today’s first reading is a mystical, remote preparation for the Eucharist. It speaks of Wisdom building a house of seven columns and offering food and wine there. It’s a clear image of the Church.

But notice who gets invited: “‘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!’”

Those who are already “wise” need not apply. Yet she doesn’t want any “foolishness” either.

In the second reading, St. Paul explains what’s going on here. The Church is indeed a place for the simple to come, but only in order that they might learn to act according to God’s wisdom.

And once again, in the Gospel, Christ fulfills the greatest expectations of the Old Testament.

They dreamed of a palace with seven pillars where we all — not just an elite group — can commune with God. We live the dream. We each have the Catholic Church with the seven pillars of the sacraments.

What they heard about in visions, we have in our tabernacles.

Aug. 23 Readings

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 34:2-3, 16-23; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

Our Take

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

That’s the phrase that echoes through today’s readings.

Peter says that when he explains why he’s not leaving Jesus like the multitudes who are streaming away from Jesus at the time. They are scandalized by what Jesus has said: They must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Such a command was totally contrary to the culture’s expectations — and they refused to entertain the thought that it might mean something less harsh than what it seemed to mean.

Peter’s answer amounts to a very laudable Catholic intellectual posture: faith seeking understanding (the definition of theology). He doesn’t understand what Jesus wants, but he’s willing to accept what Jesus says, given who Jesus is, while he tries to figure it out.

In our culture, what St. Paul says in the second reading has very much the effect that Jesus’ words about the Eucharist had. St. Paul exhorts women to “be submissive” to their husbands. That grates to modern ears. It sounds like sexism. It sounds like some kind of oppression.

But have we considered that it might mean something less harsh than what it seems to mean? Submission does not mean inequality. It often means the contrary.

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI broke his wrist at night and didn’t tell anybody, and the next morning he didn’t want to go to the doctor. But when his handlers insisted, he submitted. It’s a good thing, too. The Pope is too valuable to be left without someone to help and direct him in such matters.

Presidents have to be submissive to Secret Service agents; business tycoons have to be submissive to accountants; rock stars have to be submissive to managers. That points to a complementarity of roles, not a hierarchy.

When God says something we don’t understand, our response should be Peter’s, or that of Joshua’s men in the first reading. When given the option to leave, they said: No. God has blessed us throughout our lives. We may not understand what he is saying, but we are true to who we know he is.