A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The collect and lessons for this fourth Sunday after Trinity help us to expand our spiritual perspective, so that we come to see our journey of faith rooted not only in our own private experience, but also in the whole story of creation: “for, the earnest expectation of the whole creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.” Not only ourselves, but all of nature, discovers a new and glorious liberation in the working out of God’s mercy. But what can this mean? Surely our redemption is a matter of our moral and spiritual reconciliation with God, and has no bearing upon or consequence for other creatures? Yet to suppose this would be to fall prey to a terrible temptation obstructing the way of our salvation.
In the beginning, created in God’s own image, so that we might reflect and share in His life of love, our place in creation carried the unique responsibility of ‘dominion’: alone among all the other creatures, humanity exercised a kind of rule or authority, seen in one way as Adam was given the privilege of naming the other animals. As the reflection of God’s own life, our human nature was free to know and to care for the world as God had formed it in His loving freedom. Without that knowledge and care, in which creation was received and upheld according to its divinely ordained purpose, the true goodness and glory of the world would remain unfulfilled: because according to the operation of love, nothing is itself purely and simply in and of itself. In the life of God the Holy Trinity, and so too in all things made by Him, all identity and existence depends upon the communion and sharing of the self as an offering to and for another. This is why, for instance, plants bear fruit that are good to be eaten by other creatures, as the creation story points out, and why in the beginning our place in the world had the character of a garden—a dwelling not only of sustenance, but of joy and beauty. Rooted in the very nature of things was the event of gift and thanksgiving, taken up and finally expressed through our holy obedience to the Goodness of God.
All of that was lost and broken in our fall, our turn from humble thanksgiving to a vain disregard for the divine order of things. And according to that vanity, all of nature finds itself uncared for and its goodness unrequited. The story of grace is interrupted with violence and death, and the garden is lost. Yet not all is lost. We may lose our lives, but that is not the same as God losing us. No power is greater than His, and that is one way of saying that even death is no impediment to love. The Word of God, by Whom the world was made, comes to us, moved by the Father’s goodness, so that in His incarnate body He may confront death, and thereby change it: so that His suffering becomes the place where we are able once again to find and to receive the love of God. Not just our sinful souls, but all of nature, is restored in the Passion of our Lord. Creation is no more a perpetual and anguished longing for its proper and divine use, because as we receive the love of God in the person of Jesus, created things once again begin to take on their true purpose as the vessels of grace. Beginning with our own baptized bodies—the new ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’—and moving outward into nature by way of the sacraments, our faith gradually permits us to undo our spiritual blindness, which is the ‘beam in our own eye’ in Jesus’ parable. We come to know and care for all things according to their use as the means of fulfilling God’s mercy. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” And so we pray, that God, our redeeming Ruler and Guide, will make us to pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal, the hope of our full and heavenly adoption as the children of His gracious kingdom.