A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The lessons for these middle weeks of the Trinity season teach us how we may receive, and how we are reformed and renewed by the gift of our redemption. This follows in an orderly way from the first weeks of Trinitytide, where we came to know more clearly the impediments to our faith, and the ways we must be converted, in order that we might find ourselves prepared to receive fully the gift that God offers in Christ. First we are healed of our infirmities, and then we are made strong through nourishment and discipline, so that finally, in the last weeks of the season, we come to see how our new life comes to share in the work of the Gospel, as the expression and ministry of God’s redeeming love for our neighbour.
Our Lessons today, then, carry on from St. Paul’s teaching in last week’s episitle, that “[we are not] sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God.” We must discover how goodness is not our private accomplishment, but in fact depends on our willingness to be comforted and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, ministering to us the healing mercies of God in Christ. To that grace, and by that grace, we are to ‘be opened’, as the Gospel last Sunday illustrated. Only according to such healing and renewal can we become free from the terrible burden of justifying our own existence—the dilemma felt by the lawyer in today’s Gospel. As St. Paul tells us: “if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law,” which means that in the power and presence of God, we find ourselves restored to that eternal and perfect life which has its source only in Him, and in the outpouring of His love. Our regeneration by that loving gift of new life frees us from the tyranny of endless, unsatisfied longing that seeks slavishly how to accomplish the impossible goal our own goodness. Goodness, after all, is not a matter of any particular work or action, but rather, it is our sharing in the love of God. As St. Paul’s writes so eloquently in 1 Cor. 13: “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” This is why, for instance, the collect for peace in morning prayer reminds us that our service to God is in fact “perfect freedom”—because only as we turn to serve His loving purpose, which in the first place is our own healing, can we experience the liberty of a good life well lived. That is the point illustrated in today’s Gospel, by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Only as we permit the merciful ministry of God’s unmerited grace to heal and restore us to life, can we begin to enter into that freedom to “go and do thou likewise.” And as we make that wonderful discovery, how the unknown, unexpected mercies of God, do indeed lift us from the gutters of our failure and suffering, we begin to be the wellsprings ourselves of that goodness: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Thanks be to God. Amen.