Lectionary Central


     Home      Back to Epiphany 6




The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity
by R.U. Smith
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3.2)
This year the season after Trinity is just about as long as it can be. Consequently, there is no separate set of propers for this Sunday. Instead, we are instructed to use the propers for Epiphany VI, which are in fact used only very rarely even in Epiphanytide, since it is hardly ever more than five Sundays long.

This is a very practical solution for dealing with extra long Epiphany and Trinity seasons, but is the Epiphany reading really suitable to Trinity season?

However long Trinity season is, it always concludes with the Sunday next before Advent. The readings for that day are meant both to summarize Trinity season and to prepare us for the coming season of Advent. But even on the Sunday before the Sunday next before Advent, it is natural to begin to summarize what has gone before. Our readings for today, even though they are for Epiphanytide, contribute to this summary.

Remember that the Christian Year is divided into roughly two equal parts: the period from Advent Sunday through to Whitsunday, and the period from Trinity Sunday through to the Sunday next before Advent. The purpose of the first part is to display to us and enable us to re-enact the life of Christ. The liturgy makes us contemplate our Lord’s birth, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. In a sense we are present with Christ’s family and disciples at the great moments of his life. We witness them and, like Mary, store them up in our hearts. (Luke 2.51)

The purpose of Trinity season is different. This period is meant to teach us how to live as disciples of Christ. We have walked with Christ, now we must learn to walk as Christ. We have witnessed the mighty acts of the Spirit of God in Christ, now we must learn how to live by that Spirit ourselves. Simply put, in the first period we review the great truths of our faith; and in the second we review how we ought to apply these truths in our daily lives.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel readings are concerned with Christian living in that they remind us of its ultimate purpose. We often hear it said about someone who has just died, “He didn’t go to church very much, but he was a good-living man.” I never quite know what good-living means in these cases, but I suspect it means that the person in question worked when he could, didn’t drink too much and stood by his wife and children. These are all commendable things, of course, but are they what we mean by Christian living? How we conduct ourselves in society and at home is part of Christian living, but so is our conduct towards God. We must actively love our neighbours but we must also actively love God. This we do by regularly worshipping him in the fellowship of the Church. Good living towards our neighbour should be the happy result of our good living towards God.

Just how essential to Christian living worship actually is can be demonstrated in the following way: any person who does not believe in Christ can hold a job, stay sober and be faithful to his wife and children, but nevertheless he would not consider himself a Christian. The essential thing in Christian living is to stand among the sons and daughters of God in the presence of God.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Heaven is a society, whose common purpose is to look upon God as he is, and to praise him. But we are even now members of that society through the Church. Thus, the essential part of Christian living is seeking God’s presence in company with all his children, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christian morality also has the same object; as our Lord says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5.8) In other words, that purity of heart, which is the fruit of hope (as our Epistle tells us) has as its object the vision of God himself. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Seeing God face to face, therefore, is the purpose of Christian morality, indeed, of all Christian living. The object is to see God as he is so that we may be transformed into his likeness by knowledge, and conformed to him in love.

It is the purpose of today’s readings to remind us of this fact, that the goal of Christian living is the vision of God, which imparts all bliss. Therefore, let us live the Christian life full of hope in the Lord’s appearing, eagerly awaiting his Second Coming, when we shall be called with all his elect from the four winds, that we may see him as he is.