This week’s Collect of the Day is drawn from yesterday’s position in the calendar, “Proper 8”. This is a prayer for God’s fatherly ordering of our lives:
O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and on earth: Put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things that are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On its own, simply, this is a prayer that highlights God’s parental role over us. If you have had children, or have cared for or ministered to children regularly, you know on an experiential level just how important a prayer like this is. Children often have a hard time accepting or understanding the difference between the “hurtful things” and “those things that are profitable”… what they want is what they want, and that’s that! Of course, we adults fall into the exact same mentality all the time, we’re just usually a little more sophisticated about it. “I deserve to indulge myself today”, “Just one ___ won’t hurt me”, “I know it’s bad for me, but I can keep it under control”. This prayer demands of us an honesty that we’re not always prepared to attain to on our own.
In the traditional calendar, this Collect was appointed for the 8th Sunday after Trinity, and was paired with Romans 8:12-17 and Matthew 7:15-21. That epistle is very clearly in mind in the construction of this Collect:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
The Gospel contains a warning against false teachers – wolves in sheep’s clothing. This adds to the Epistle’s concern with things that are morally and spiritually harmful or profitable the further level of doctrinal harm and profit. It is critical that we do not scratch our “itching ears” as it is written elsewhere in the New Testament. We must pray that God will keep, or make, us open to receive his true teaching rather than the teaching we want to hear. Our fleshly, sinful, self-centered tendencies can easily overrule our moral, spiritual, and doctrinal commitment to Christ and his Church, so let this Collect remind you in the Daily Office throughout this week to “mortify the works of the flesh”, to discern the disguised wolf from the true sheep, and endeavor to follow Christ as he leads, not as we would have him lead.