The Word in other Words

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T H E  W O R D
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
September 28, 2014

Ez 18: 25-28

   Thus says the Lord: You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair? Are not your ways unfair? When the just turn away from justice to do evil and die, on account of the evil they did they must die. But if the wicked turn from the wickedness they did and do what is right and just, they save their lives; since they turned away from all the sins they committed, they shall live; they shall not die.

Phil 2: 1-11

   Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

   Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,/ Who, though he was in the form of God,/ did not regard equality with God something to be grasped./ Rather, he emptied himself,/ taking the form of a slave,/ coming in human likeness;/ and found human in appearance,/ he humbled himself,/ / becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross./ Because of this, God greatly exalted him/ and bestowed on him the name/ that is above every name,/ that at the name of Jesus/ every knee should bend,/ of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,/ and every tongue confess that/ Jesus Christ is Lord,/ to the glory of God the Father.

Mt 21: 28-32

   Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

I  N    O  T H E  R    W O R D  S

   We understand this parable better in connection with the passage immediately before it (Matthew 21:23-27). There, the chief priests and the elders questioned Jesus’ authority. He countered with a question about John the Baptist – was John’s baptism of human origin or divine origin? The chief priests and elders were afraid to give him a straight answer.

   Now Jesus speaks about two sons. His listeners agree that the first son, who originally said no but then changed his mind, actually did his father’s will. Jesus relates this also to John’s mission: The tax collectors and prostitutes had changed direction in their lives because of John’s teaching. They would enter the Kingdom first because the chief priests and elders would not change their minds and believe in John.

   The captives in Babylon blamed God for their troubles (“The Lord’s way is not fair!”). But Ezekiel taught that the individual is responsible for his or her own life: if a wicked man turns away from his sins he will have life. The chief priests and elders had the freedom to change and follow John but were unwilling to do so, perhaps because they were too comfortable in their present situation.

   The tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as countercultural, as was John, and following Christ can be countercultural too, for us as for the chief priests and elders. The Church suffers much from indifference and hostility. But, this is an inconvenience that is insignificant when set beside the joy, love and hope in Christ, which Paul celebrates in the second reading. We are not in the world simply to live for ourselves alone, but to have a part in Christ’s redemption for the whole of humanity.

   We all have the freedom to choose or reject what is good. Frequently we blame God or circumstances for the troubles of our life. People often say: “Tao lang ako,” (Am just a human being) or “Hindi maiiwasan . . .” (can’t avoid) but we are always free to accept or not to accept. Perhaps we could summarize our freedom of choice as the freedom to be makasarili (self-centered) or makakristo (for Christ). Like the tax collectors and prostitutes, however, we often need courage, determination and effort if we wish to free ourselves from the inertia of our present comfortable situation, in order to choose life.

   Let us not be afraid to change. Let us not remain bogged down in the lassitude of our sinfulness simply because we can’t be bothered to move out of it, or because we feel comfortably established and accepted there. Let us have the fortitude and the resolve to choose life and move forward with Christ.

– Fr. Alan Meechan, SVD (Melgar, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro)


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