Home      Back to Trinity 14




The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
by R.D. Crouse
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 130-132)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” 
(Galatians 5.25)

The Scripture lessons appointed for today and for recent Sundays are all about the nature and practice of the spiritual life. In Baptism we are born again of water and the Spirit, born into the new spiritual realm which we call “the Kingdom of God” or ‘the Kingdom of Heaven.” In Baptism, we embrace, or our parents and godparents embrace for us, the spiritual life of God’s Kingdom, and it is our vocation to grow and become mature in that spiritual life.

With that in mind, I think we should look closely at the lessons for today — the Epistle and the Gospel — and if you’d like to follow the text, you’ll find it in the Prayer Book, beginning on page 239.

First, the Epistle — and let’s look at it line by line. “If we live in the Spirit,” says St. Paul, ‘let us also walk in the Spirit.” But what does it mean to “live in the Spirit?” It has to do with the basic direction and orientation of our lives: what we live for, what we take to be fundamentally important, what we understand to be the purpose and end of our lives. To live in the Spirit means to live according to the will of God, according to the word of God revealed by the Spirit in the Scriptures and in the life of the spiritual community.

“If we live in the Spirit,” says St. Paul, “let us also walk in the Spirit.” By that he means that we, who know something of the word of God and the will of God (perhaps only a little, but still something), must walk in that spirit. We must order our lives, and make our daily decisions, with our spiritual end, and not worldly ends, in mind. We must “seek first God’s kingdom.” (Matthew 6.33) St. Paul continues:  “Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

St. Paul frequently contrasts life in the Spirit with life according to the flesh. To live “after the flesh” is to live for worldly ends. It means to regard the ambitions and possessions and comforts and pleasures of this present age as though they were absolute. That is what it means to be “desirous of vain-glory.” To desire vain-glory or empty glory is to take pride or satisfaction in things which are finally of no value or importance. It is to set our hearts upon such things; and for the sake of such things, we compete with one another, provoking and envying our neighbours.

“Brethren,” says St. Paul, “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou be also tempted.”

The temptations of vain-glory — the temptations of worldliness —are surely very close to every one of us, very close to you, and very close to me. How often in little matters, and sometimes even in big matters, do we succumb to them. But we who are spiritual — we who have embraced the spiritual life of God’s kingdom — we are not to judge one another in a spirit of criticism or a spirit of pride. Rather, we are to judge in a spirit of meekness, knowing our own frailty in these matters: “considering thyself, lest thou be also tempted.”

Do not condemn. Rather, says St. Paul, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It is not our calling to disparage and destroy one another, but to support one another and uphold one another in spiritual life. Thus we “fulfill the law of Christ,” which is the law of love.

“For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Perhaps the profoundest temptation of all is the temptation of pride: “to think ourselves to be something.” This is to take our own fond ambitions and opinions as the measure of spirituality, to make ourselves arbiters of spiritual life. We fool ourselves, and perhaps nobody else, certainly not God.

“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another; for every man shall bear his own burden.” That is to say, each of us has his own vocation, his own spiritual life — his own talents, and opportunities and circumstances — and it is in that context that our own spiritual life must become mature. There is a sense in which we “bear one another’s burdens.” For instance, the godparent takes on the responsibility of seeing that the baptized infant prospers in his or her spiritual life. This is also the duty of each one of us towards our neighbour; but there is also a sense in which we must attend to our own purity of heart, and mind our own business.

That, I think, is the meaning of the Epistle lesson. The Gospel, from St. Luke 17, is the story of the healing of the lepers; and what it adds to the message of the Epistle is simply this. The cleansing and healing of the spirit is the work of God. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who hath even made us worthy to be ministers of the new covenant.” (2 Corinthians 3.5) Therefore, our spiritual life is to be nurtured and matured in a spirit of thanksgiving, and cannot be nurtured and matured in any other way. Otherwise, it turns into pride when we think ourselves to be something when we are nothing. We fool ourselves, delude ourselves. Spiritual wholeness consists in giving glory to God. In the Eucharist, the thanksgiving which we now go on to celebrate, let us then return to give thanks to God for spiritual gifts, which make us no longer strangers, but citizens of God’s kingdom.

“Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.”