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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 4: Trinity Sunday to the Twelfth Sunday After Trinity (p. 172-173)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
The single bold theme of today’s Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that it is only through the atoning merits and mediation of Jesus Christ that we dare to hope for the outflow of God’s goodness to us. God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift and he alone, through his Son, can forgive sin.

What a comfort it is for us to know that our God is more ready to hear than we are to pray! When we make every effort to pray and be faithful to him, he is there waiting for every turn of the heart towards him. When we have forgotten him and have turned away to our own preoccupations, he is still there, waiting to hear us and forgive us no matter how much pain we have caused him by our sin. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65. 24).

We continue our address to God by admitting that he is “wont” (accustomed) “to give more than either we desire or deserve.” Remember the story of the prodigal son who returns to his father asking only to be treated as a hired servant, but instead receives a loving and forgiving welcome as a son who was lost but is now found — an affectionate embrace, the finest clothing and a wonderful banquet (Luke 15. 11-32). Likewise, our God offers us a spiritual feast if we would only return to him. He will embrace us with his saving and forgiving wounds, he will do the us in love, and he welcomes us to that gracious banquet of the Holy Communion where we eat the Bread of eternal salvation and drink the Cup of everlasting life. No one has ever turned to God and not received the promise: “Let him return..., to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55. 7).

Asking God to “pour down upon us the abundance of  mercy”, we plead with him to forgive us “those things whereof our conscience is afraid.” Which one of us finds it easy to admit some of our sins, some of our shortcomings? Which one of us can know the love of God, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and not have a troubled conscience when we examine our hearts? But we must confess all to hini “unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid” (p. 67, Book of Common Prayer), for if we confess all, we will be forgiven all. Fear is replaced by humility and gratitude: “I am a sinner full of doubts and fears, Make me a humble thing of Love and Tears.” (Hartley Coleridge, quoted in Armitage, p. 110).

The blood of Jesus Christ will purify our conscience and make it free of guilt and sin: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9. 14).

We do not doubt that our sins will be forgiven, since we confess them with a penitent heart and a true faith in him: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (sprinkled clean with the blood of Jesus Christ), “and our bodies washed with pure water” (a reference to our spiritual washing in Baptism) (Heb. 10. 22). “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15. 57).