SEXAGESIMA (OR THE SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE LENT)
The count down to the beginning of Lent continues.
We got off to a solid start last week, Septuagesima. In the Epistle we were taught that "it is never too late to be damned" even if one is an apostle (1 Cor.9:24ff); and in the Gospel we learned that that "it is never too late to be saved" by the mercy of the heavenly Father (the vineyard owner of the parable in Matthew 20:1ff).
Thus there is need for constant vigilance in the management of one's whole life before God, as well as for constant trust in the grace of the merciful Father, through Jesus Christ the Lord.
This week from the Epistle we learn more of the total consecration of the apostle Paul to his Lord and to his vocation and how much he suffered in body and soul for this commitment (2 Corinthians 9:19ff.). Thus we are provided with an example of what serving the Lord wholeheartedly could entail. In the count down to Lent and in Lent itself, through self-examination, we are to ascertain where we have failed in our consecration and to look for ways to intensify and enlarge our commitment to the Lord and his cause.
The Gospel (Luke 8:4-15) is the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. This provides a strong word of both warning and grace to us. God's Word is propagated and he desires that it be heard, received and obeyed. Yet only a few of us will actually prove to be persons in whom the Gospel truly bears fruit. Most of us will receive the Gospel but only partially or only alongside some other commitment. That is most of us will provide examples of how the power of the devil, temptation, the pressures of the secular world and our own innate sins push out the claims of the Gospel. This is why the churches are so morally and spiritually weak and why, where they seem to prosper, they are so worldly and conformed to secular value systems.
In the count down to Lent and in Lent there is time to repent and to become, by grace alone, those who hear the Word, engage in self-examination and go on to bear fruit for the Word.
The Collect is the prayer of those who have been led by their own fragile state and moral weakness to cast themselves wholly upon God's mercy.
"O Lord God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended [by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles] against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(the words in square brackets were in the original Latin but omitted by Archbishop Cranmer in 1549)
See further the Eucharistic Lectionary contained in the editions of the classic Book of Common Prayer
The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon, Vice President of the American Prayer Book Society, January 31, 2002