The Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
1.My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2.And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1-2
This COLLECT is one of the more interesting and inspirational of all of the Prayer Book. It encapsulates succinctly the mighty truth of salvation and forgiveness made available in Christ our LORD. As with the other Collects, it rightly bases its petitions upon those sure promises made firm in Holy Scripture. Herein lies the power of the Collects – that is, their biblical soundness which never presumes, but bases the petition upon those promises made full in Jesus.
Though God is ever ready to absolve those who truly repent of their sins in Christ, He nonetheless desires that we make petition for the grant of absolution. Even in worldly judiciaries, pardons are not granted except by formal petition. God is like many loving fathers of this world who dote upon their children. His joy is made full when they ask for those things He is anxious and desirous to grant.
Who are those people who are privileged to receive this absolution from God? Who are those referred to as “thy people?” Concerning the Articles of Religion, the catechumen is asked their meaning:
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?
Answer. First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world. Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God. (1662 BoCP)
This Collect is not the prayer of the profligate sinner, but the elect child of God. It is a prayer to be addressed communally in Church among those who know Christ as Lord and who petition for absolution of those sins which they have committed through a prevailing weakness of the flesh. These are NOT intentional sins, but sins performed in absent-mindedness of duty to God. Sins of both commission AND omission fall into the categories for which we pray absolution.
Herein lies an extremely important truth – only God can forgive and absolve sins. It is not the priest or Bishop who absolves, but simply pronounces the will of God to absolve and forgive all who truly repent. The Absolution is simply a confirmation by the celebrant of those promises made sure in Christ to forgive all who appeal to Him. The absolution as contained in the Order for Holy Communion reads:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The absolution for Morning Prayer reads:
ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live, hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins. He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.
Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
Of course we seek absolution in the Collect for one purpose: to clean our consciences and to remove guilt of sins. It is intended to reflect a conscious effort on the part of the believer to amend constantly his sinful ways through the sanctifying efficacy of the Holy Ghost. We are not perfect creatures. We are subject to the same desires and temptations of the flesh as all men have been from the Garden Gate at Eden. But when we have come in to the family of God, our spirits do constantly battle with the vulgar and profane promptings of the flesh to overcome and to put our bodies under subjection to the Spirit.
Every sin committed is like a rope binding our flesh and subduing our spirits. Once repented and absolved, those ropes of bondage are cut from us, and we are free in Christ. through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Only by the goodness, and not the judgment, of God can our sins be remitted and absolved. Were justice to be dealt every sinner, no sins would ever be absolved. We stand convicted and deserve the fires of Hell, but Christ has paid our sin-debt for us by His sufferings and passion of the cross. This opens the flood-gates of mercy for all who will receive. Have you?
18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. 19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. 20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. 23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, 24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. 25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. 26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. Matt 9:18-26 (KJV)
There are two miracles in the text that are remarkable for timing and self-assessment. First of all, the timing. A ruler of the local synagogue comes to Christ with heartbroken appeal that Christ will come and raise her up. First of all, he waited a bit late to come to Christ in the human conception of urgency. The girl had been seriously ill, and yet the rabbi waits until she is dead before coming to Christ. Had his faith been exceptional, that would have been a compliment to it; however, he was a Jewish rabbi and had yet to accept Christ as Lord. So he may have lingered late from a matter of pride. Regardless, the main point is that he came to Christ at last. Christ knew full well that a lady whom He had known from before the world was made was approaching Him stealthily, but, still, He made as if to go with the synagogue ruler.
At that very moment, a woman with a serious issue of blood was approaching. She, too, had lingered long in pain and suffering before making the only move that could heal her. She sought Christ out of desperation. I remind you that she had spent all her life’s savings on physicians for the past twelve years and was no better. In fact, her illness grew worse. (see Mark 5:25,26) It is noteworthy to each of us personally that we often wait until a matter becomes desperate before we seek out the Lord’s blessing on our condition. But, again, the important point is that she came to Christ at last. Though there were throngs around Christ – many bustling and touching Him in random incidence – He nonetheless felt a different kind of touch when the woman touched the hem of His garment. It was a touch of faith, and the Lord felt it. When we pray in faith, the Lord is keen to hear our prayer. The woman was healed of her physical incapacity, but more importantly, she was made whole in body AND soul! Jesus does not do half-way healings.
I have wondered why this seemingly incidental second miracle took place at the very moment the Lord was proceeding to the house of Jarius. I believe it must have been to instill a greater faith in the heart of Jarius who was still steeped in the Jewish religion devoid of grace. For God to perform miraculous healing, there must be a lively faith in the subject of that miracle. And once Jarius saw the woman healed, his faith was multiplied.
Once the Lord arrived at the house of Jarius, many Jews were gathered weeping bitterly. This outburst is often as much show for some, but a true expression of grief to those who know and love the maiden. When the Lord asks them to make way for His entry, and tells them the maiden is not dead but sleepeth, their presumed grief turns to scornful laughing – not so much grief at all. They know death, but the Lord knows LIFE! He goes to the young girl, takes her by her tiny hand, and says, “Talitha cumi” which means “young maiden, or little lamb, arise!” (see Mark 5:41). “42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.” Mark 5:42-43 (KJV) Sick people doe not eat! Why did Jesus tell the company present to tell no one about the miracle. Did He honestly believe that the astonished observers could keep such a secret? I do not believe so. I believe He often gave such counsel to remind each of us of what a wonderful thing He has done in our own lives. Can we keep that secret? No, we will go out and tell every soul we meet of the great mercy and grace God has extended to us even if He bids us keep it secret! Have we done so?