10 Pentecost, Year B: Repentance and Divine Food

SUNDAY’S READINGS | August 1, 2021

2 Sam. 11:26-12:13a (or Exod. 16:2-4; 9-15)
Ps. 51:1-13 (or Ps. 78:23-29)
Eph. 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

An essential part of learning anything is reviewing. We learn and review the Church’s liturgy through frequent participation. But do we remember its components and their deeper meanings?

The Holy Eucharist has two main parts, the Word of God and the Holy Communion. The first part begins with our arrival, when we enter in silence, with humility and gentleness, patience, and mutual love. We prepare ourselves to hear the Word of God in unity of Spirit and with bonds of peace (Eph. 4:2-3). Invariably, we feel and know that we must again repent in the presence of the Lord and each other. We have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Repentance is necessary and bracing work and a requirement for participation in Holy Communion. We are summoned to face our offenses, our wickedness, our transgression, our iniquities, none of which deny the importance of a proper self-regard. We are the children of God, and so we should and must love ourselves, but we must face ourselves too. Repentance is not morbid. It is an opportunity to cry out, “Purge me, wash me, give me joy and gladness again, create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me, sustain me with your bountiful Spirit” (Ps. 51:8-13). The call of Christ is always “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

Having repented and been forgiven, we await the extraordinary gift of Holy Communion. Recalling the children of Israel in the wilderness, we also receive from God a surprise beyond knowing. Indeed, the children of Israel received manna, which means, “What is it?” The Christian Eucharist is that surprise amplified, reminding us that God will meet us again and again in unexpected ways. Poet W.H. Auden calls us to this renewed sense of wonder. “He is the Way. Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness; you will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.”

Expectantly, we see the clouds above, and the doors of heaven opened (Ps. 78:23). “He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them grain from heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels; he provided for them food enough” (Ps. 78:23-25). So we take, as if from the hand of Jesus, “the food that endures to eternal life,” “true bread from heaven,” “the bread of God that gives life to the world” (John 6:27-33). Even more, we receive Jesus himself, who said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). Thus we enter, by faith, heaven itself, or rather heaven enters us.

Consider three theological voices bearing witness to heaven within us. Richard Hooker: “Was it possible that they should hear that voice, ‘Take, eat, this is my body; drink ye all of this, this is my blood’; possible that doing what was required and believing what was promised, the same should have present effect in them and not fill them with a kind of fearful admiration at the heaven which they saw in themselves?” Using similar words, Anthony Sparrow writes: “Is it possible to hear [the words of institution] and not be filled, as with a kind of fearful admiration, so with a sea of joy and comfort for the heaven which they see in themselves?” Finally, Jeremy Taylor wrote, “Throw away with great diligence and severity all unholy and all earthly thoughts and think the thoughts of heaven” (J. Robert Wright, Prayer Book Spirituality).

We repent of our sin; that is, we turn around. Turn where? To the one true heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord. Receive him and welcome him with fearful wonder.

Look It Up

John 6:35

Think About It

Jesus is the food that endures unto eternal life.


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