A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
This Sunday we find ourselves among the multitudes whose hearts were stirred by the extraordinary words of Jesus, who left their homes and wandered through wild places so that they might hear Him. His voice had a terrible authority—not, said the people, like the teaching of the Pharisees—and a terrible beauty, unlike any sound or voice they had known, a sound that gathered them. ‘The soul that suffers for the truth will be blessed, and the heart that mourns will be comforted,’ He told them. ‘The riches of this world will lead to anguish, and the road to heaven is hard and narrow. Along that holy way, violence must be endured with patience, and enemies met graciously. The lonely soul in sorrow must be treated intimately and with compassion, as a dear neighbour. And everything must be moved by the most holy and honest prayer: calling on God as Father, and asking Him daily for heavenly guidance, encouragement, nourishment, forgiveness, protection.’ It was not a new law, but a new life that opened out before them in the holy voice of this peculiar man. So even though the chance of a meal was long behind them, they stayed, and listened. And because they did, they were about to find what it meant, that high spiritual phrase, ‘to be blessed.’ He asked them to sit. And through the few small morsels which they had, He overwhelmed all their anxiety and need with the gift of perfect and heavenly goodness. Their bodies were fed: make no mistake, it was no metaphor. With God, all things are possible. Also their souls were refreshed with mercy—for they knew that grace had touched them inwardly; and their hearts were relieved of earthly fears, finding in a moment that God is no stranger to our human struggles, but rather, that He bears them. And then, He sent them away. Home to their families, home to work and children and spouses and difficult neighbours and taxes and friends. But not to the same homes; because they had been changed: “Thanks be to God that you, who were once slaves to sin, have obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching whereunto you were delivered; you were set free from sin, and have become servants of righteousness.” A new life stood before them, and stands before us—before every soul who hears the voice of the Master, and turns for His words, to hear them. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:7-8).
The path of discipleship is our liberty from the bonds of death. The power of death is established by sin, which holds us in darkness and slavery by the fear of our shame and the torment of our emptiness. All godless labours produce nothing but the need to labour the more savagely for protection from every other soul, and from every other power: “[offering] your bodily members to serve uncleanness, and to iniquity after iniquity.” According to this sinful view of things, there is no other way, and in a terrible irony, the only enduring solace lies in death, itself the wretched mockery of the eternal peace for which we are made.
From all this the voice of Jesus proclaims freedom, so that we who hear His words, and receive them gladly, may know within ourselves the fruit of our redemption, that we, “being made free from sin, and become servants to God, [may]have our fruit unto holiness, and [in]the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death: but the free gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And so, in the course of our salvation, here is our spiritual challenge: to let go of the vain thing we suppose we possess—which in fact is nothing—in order that we may be filled with those joys which we do not know, even the healing and life that flow from God’s own offering of Himself, for us, and to us, and eternally revealed in the gracious Word of the Lord: “I am the bread of life, My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” Amen.