A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Our common calling as the followers and disciples of Jesus is to grow up into our Christian maturity, so that our spiritual identity as the citizens of heaven and the members of Christ’s body becomes continually stronger and more clear. Step by step, by Word and Sacrament, we make our progress into the love of God, and as we do our vision of His goodness becomes more profound, and our power to accomplish that goodness, through spiritual devotion and charitable action, becomes more adept and free. Our liberty as the agents of the Gospel, as the means, therefore, of grace and blessing, gradually expands so that our exercise of faith is more and more capable of confronting the darkness of this fallen world with the redeeming reality of our Saviour. This, Jesus told the disciples, is the Messianic power which has already ‘overcome the world’—the limitless strength of His mercy and pity, by which the obstacles of sin and death are overcome and laid waste, so that the kingdom of God is free to break in upon all human story. The way is set before us, and we may freely take up the call to follow the Master in His labours, not to undo or condemn the world He has made, but to heal and restore it according to the vision of His redeeming glory that fulfills all things.
And so it is by way of encouragement, to persevere in that high calling, that St. Paul writes in today’s epistle: “my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Having patiently endured the discovery of our own weakness and our constant need of mercy throughout the first stages of this Trinity season, here at the end we find ourselves free to embrace the power and person of Christ Himself. We come to discover that our own faculties, which the world would have us trust and train towards the empty goal of our own self-serving ends, in fact are meant to serve not as the source of power or glory, but as the means of receiving them. ‘All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.’ This is the beautiful paradox of our faith: we may possess ourselves, and our glory may be accomplished, only to the extent that we surrender to God’s desire to grant us His blessing. No other way leads to our ‘pardon and peace’. Life, in other words, is entirely God’s gift to us: not only in its origin, but at every moment of the journey. That is the vision which our faith perceives: the spiritual presence and power of God to heal and to save His people. And this is not a matter of earthly signs and wonders, Jesus reminds us, because the working out of God’s plan is spiritual and eternal, and not limited by the times and places, which, after all, He has made.
Our humility before such infinite goodness, St. Paul tells us, places us on the spiritual battlefield where the truth of the Gospel is constantly contested by the demonic powers of spiritual rebellion, wicked spiritual forces seeking to cast such a darkness over the world as to divide it from the brightness of heaven. Against such spiritual wickedness we must each stand, if our faith is to flourish to the end. And if to stand, we must be sure of our strength, and equipped with such weaponry as will endure every onslaught of the enemy — every spiritual falsehood, and every earthly vanity: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The heart of the matter is simply this: that we are able to abide in any truth or goodness, not by virtue of any power we have evolved or by any weapon we have forged by our own wit or skill; but rather, that God created and formed us such that we are able to be endowed with those graces and powers which belong to Him. We are His children, for whom His own Son was pleased to suffer all things, so that in our journey through the things temporal, our hold on the things eternal might grow always stronger, as we always discover more deeply how this is true: that nothing can separate us from the love of God.