A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
As we approach the culmination and fulfillment of the Trinity season in these its final weeks, our lections guide our thoughts and prayers toward a new and heavenly mandate for living, so that, finding our hearts and souls more and more free from the bonds of our fallen earthly tragedy, we may more and more surely enter into the joyful labour which has redeemed us from all harm and despair, the merciful love of God.
And just so it is this new and spiritually gracious occupation which St. Paul exhorts us to embrace and renew, in today’s epistle: “that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” That new humanity, formed after the image of its Redeemer, is meant to participate in the gracious mission and ministry of the Messiah, according to His own mandate to love one and other ‘even as He loves us’. Therefore, St. Paul tells us, “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Christ is the true vine of our new life and liberty, and we are His branches. We are redeemed and reformed, in other words, to be the very bond and express image of the eternal and perfect kingdom of God, even as we make our way through the midst of this earthly life and pilgrimage. We, who follow our Saviour, are to be like Him: we too are sent to be a ‘light to lighten the Gentiles’, so that, by the hope and magnanimity of our witness, “all nations may come and worship the Lord.” (Psalm 86:9). Though they may seek to satisfy spiritual longing with earthly vanities, and to resolve confusion and struggle with ever more devastating violence, we must seek to meet that trauma and terror with healing and kindness, “ministering grace.”
Our Gospel, then, is at pains to remind us of the foundation on which all such ministry must stand, in the story of Christ’s goodness toward the palsied man. “Jesus, seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Naturally the scribes were scandalized, and most likely the friends who brought the man were non-plussed. It was for the body that they had come. But Jesus wants them, and us, to see how the kingdom of heaven must always operate according to its own divine charter and in terms of its true, and merciful, law and order. In these terms, it must always be the soul, first, which is taken up and restored to new life and goodness. Only as a reflection and consequence of that spiritual renewal will any material healing have enduring meaning, even as our new spiritual vision teaches us to find in our earthly circumstances the means of heavenly grace and blessing. ‘Be not anxious for the body,’ He told them, ‘Your Father knows you have such needs; first seek after heaven, and its goodness, and the rest will be cared for accordingly.’ Earth must be restored in heaven’s terms, and for heavenly ends: that is the meaning of any true liberty and redemption, because only in the sway and purpose of heaven can goodness proceed without fear of limit or loss. Charity, as Paul wrote so boldly, never fails, and only as the children of Charity, ‘not grieving the Holy Spirit,’ can we make any progress toward that perfect and eternal home where the Source and Perfection of Charity is found. To Him be the Glory!