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The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 5: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity to Twenty Sixth Sunday after Trinity 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today we are taught about “humility” and “grace”, and their relation to each other. The readings for Trinity XI also treated the subject of humility, but there we were shown examples of humility toward God in the character of St. Paul and in the prayer of the publican. Today we learn the harder lesson of humility in our dealings with men.

The Epistle tells us that we are to walk in a way worthy of our vocation, with all lowliness, meekness, long-suffering and forbearing one another in love. Lowly in himself, the Christian will be meek towards others, careful of offending them. We will be patient, forbearing and forgiving when someone sins against us. Pride, harshness and the bearing of a grudge have no place in the Christian’s character. Today’s Gospel continues the theme of humility, concluding: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

The Collect begs God’s grace to prevent us (that is, “go before” us), and follow us. Recalling the use of the word “grace” in II Corinthians 8. 9, shows us how grace is related to the humility described in the Epistle and Gospel: “ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.”  In other words, you know how great a favour and kindness he did us, in humbling himself to become mar and to suffer the death of the cross. As St. Paul says in Philippians 2. 5, 8: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who...being found in fashion as a man...humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

If we are to follow the example of our Blessed Lord and humble ourselves before others and do “good works” with all lowliness and meekness, we need the grace of God to work within us. Thus, on a Sunday when our Eucharistic readings emphasize humility and good works, we pray in the Collect for the grace of God to surround us.

We need God’s grace to go before us to prompt us with right desires, to give us opportunity to do good for others, and to guide us that we may be able to complete what we begin. We need God’s grace ever behind us to urge us on that we may not fall, to support us when we fail, to guard us from unseen enemies, and to bless our works with good results.