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The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 1: Sunday Next Before Advent to Epiphany VI 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Epiphany season comes to an end with the manifestation of Christ as the mercy and judgement of God. The fifth and sixth Sundays after Epiphany break from the pattern of miracles in the first five Sundays to sound a note of finality and warning. The revelation of God to man requires no casual response since it relates to matters of the utmost consequence for all men. The eucharistic readings for these two Sundays are designed to perform a double duty. Depending on the date of Easter, they may serve to conclude either the season of Epiphany or the Trinity season (see the rubric at the bottom of page 258 in the Book of Common Prayer).

“Keep thy Church continually in thy true religion,” prays today’s collect; “Put on mercy and compassion,” exhorts the epistle; and the gospel would teach us to be the good seed bringing forth the good wheat in the midst of the world’s field of weeds and wheat. The manifestation of divine glory in Jesus Christ calls forth life of a certain character in us, precisely in the light of that divine glory. From the perspective of Trinity season, our life in the Spirit seeks especially the increase in us of the life of Christ, who has so gloriously revealed himself to us.

Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, is planted in us just as the sower sows the seed. We must be faithful to the Sower of the good seed of eternal life in us. Christ will bear his fruits of righteousness in us amidst the world’s field of weeds and wheat so that in the day of his judgement we may be gathered into the barn of heaven, where Christ is the true and only wheat and we are wheat truly and only in him. We are to grow into the good wheat of heaven’s barn in the midst of a world of weeds.

The collect prays that by true religion and hope of God’s heavenly grace we may endure and persevere in this world of confusion and uncertainty. We hope to be defended until we reach heaven. The gospel puts this in terms of God protecting us from being uprooted until we reach heaven. This is our prayer when we ask God, Take not thy Holy Spirit from us.” The epistle illustrates how true religion preserves us in God’s grace: “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Christ is the presence of the heavenly kingdom among us now, sustaining us until his future coming. Christ’s indwelling is true religion, the work of the Church. In all of this, the mercy of God is shown as the compassion of Christ. He manifests divinity. Christ opens to mankind the heart of God by taking mankind into the inmost recesses of his own being.

The epistle sets before us the habits of the soul whereby our lives are fully focussed on God. By this inner clothing, we are identified with Christ; we are one with him. This clothing of the soul is Christ, the Indwelling Word: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” True religion cultivates the presence of Christ in us, and that cultivation focusses on the Holy Eucharist, wherein Christ gives himself to us so that he may be in us and we in him, so that, joined to his sacrifice, we may be united with him in his glory. The manifestation of Christ's divinity seeks the showing forth of Christ's life in us.