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The Twenty-Third 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.
O God, our refuge and strength, who are the author of all godliness: Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The themes of this Sunday (heavenly-mindedness) and next Sunday (final deliverance) fittingly draw the Trinity season to its close. The thought and teaching of this whole season of the Church year is “holiness” and our growth in that holiness which is the distinguishing mark of a Christian. God has placed us by his grace into his Holy Catholic Church. We are to be “crucified to the world.” We do not grow in holiness through a determined effort of our own strength and will, but rather we submit our will to his, rely on his grace, and discover his strength in our weakness. Each Collect of this season has stressed the necessity of depending upon his grace for our Christian growth and progress. 

Today the Epistle and Gospel teach us that our true home is not on earth but in heaven. We are exiles here, refugees waiting to be delivered to our native country where we will discover who we truly are. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts, 0 Lord, are restless, until they may find their rest in you.” 

The Epistle makes it clear that “heaven” is not just something in the distant future which has no bearing on us, but that the true Christian life (which we have been trying to foster this Trinity season) now has its citizenship in heaven. Our lifestyle is very different from the non-Christian’s, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (from the Epistle), because our hope in the return of our Saviour Jesus Christ changes our very perception of the world. It is as if the Holy City has come down from Heaven to meet us on our way and we become “heavenly-minded” while still living on this earth. 

The Gospel has been chosen for this Sunday to remind us how our citizenship in Heaven is related to our citizenship on earth. The Christian has a duty to the world and community in which he lives, and to the powers by which that world is governed. It is a great sin to make religion an excuse for being careless in respect to any earthly duty, in regard to one’s family, business, city, country, or regal authority. We do not mock these earthly responsibilities, but return to them what we receive from them. Likewise it is with God. God demands the return of everything we are to him, for we ourselves are his. 

The Collect addresses God alone as our refuge and strength and the author of all godliness. This urges us to remember that earthly concerns and matters can have no final satisfaction for us, bringing together the themes of the Epistle (“our citizenship is in heaven”) and the Gospel (“render...unto God the things that are God’s”). We then pray that God will hear the devout prayers of his Church and that he would grant us those things that are in accordance with his will for us. But how do we come to know what we ought to ask for, and where do we learn to pray devoutly and ask faithfully? The more we grow in holiness, the greater the knowledge we have of God’s will for us, and we learn to submit our will cheerfully to his will for our lives.