26th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – Fr. Rick Sherman
Ez. 18:25-28; Phil. 2:1-11; Mt. 21:28-32
September 27, 2020
Gospel MT 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and 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 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.”
Today’s gospel sort of forces the question, ‘What is it that keeps us from being faithful to our “I will” or our “I do”?’ The opposite of “I will” is “I won’t”. In this sense “I won’t” equates with sin. But what about, “I forgot”. Or just plain “What”?
The last few weeks we have talked much about the nature and causes of our sins, individually and collectively. Last week we heard that part of the problem is that God’s ways are so far above our ways, ‘as far as the heavens from the earth’. God’s ways are often mysterious and confusing to us mere mortals. Sometimes we get caught in a ‘group think’ situation where our individual fears and confusion has us sliding into a crowd or mob mentality that creates vitriol and antagonism and more fear.
In the first reading today from the prophet Ezekiel, the people are complaining that God is not fair. He is punishing them for the sins of their ancestors. But Gof defends Himself by saying ‘no, you are just as guilty because you have not listened to the prophets I sent to you’. Recall this about 587 B.C. when Babylon is destroying the city of Jerusalem and the temple and most of the people. The unfaithfulness has gone on for centuries and generations. Each generation is responsible for learning from the past and and being righteous.
Biblically speaking, we are all born into woundedness and confusion. That’s why we get baptized. To be liberated from illusion.. Our nationality, ethnic group, regional or political affiliation, family have shaped our opinions and perspectives. Often, it was not shaped by Catholic teaching. That’s why it is so important to be faithful to our promises when we commit to educating our children in the faith by word and example. The human world has many ideas about how to educate the children, so if we blow it off, someone else will gladly step in.
What else affects our “I will” or “I do”? Sometimes MAYBE we just don’t know the difference between right and wrong. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to teach the ignorant. Ignorant is not a demeaning term, but just an acknowledgement that people NEED to taught or else they just don’t know. …….
If we are 40 or 50 or 60 and JUST DON’T KNOW, then there might be some Sloth involved…….which is one of the deadly sins.
So confusion, sloth, ignorance……….sometimes genuine evil keep us from being faithful to our “I will” or “I do”. I’ve been around for a while and believe that cases of genuine evil are fairly rare. Evil exists and is real and some people have given themselves over to being deliberately destructive; but most of us have just been ‘duped’ by the Evil One and its affects radiate and multiply over the ages.
Many of us here, particularly in the promises of ordination and matrimony, have made some very big and sincere commitments. To be faithful FOREVER. If we have ever renewed our baptismal vows, we have promised again to be faithful FOREVER.
Married couples should be deliberately and consciously committed to each other’s emotional and spiritual growth, as individuals and as a couple. This requires a daily ‘I do’ or ‘I will.’ Likewise the ordained make a promise to pray daily for the Church; 7 times AT LEAST each day. And to teach what the Church teaches, not a watered-down personal interpretation.
More than likely most of us have figured out what the right thing to do is and intend to do it, but what else keeps us from being faithful to these daily ‘I wills’?
In the second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, he appeals to us to be of the same mind with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. But he starts with, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy…
. 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 for those of others.” To be united in heart with Jesus and each other requires us to know our need for mercy and to extend it to others. Psalm 25 today also speaks to this Divine mercy dynamic.
A spirit of genuine compassion and mercy toward the limitations and failings of others will help avoid most of our endless disputes and arguments. Usually we can only show compassion to the degree that we have experienced compassion in our own lives. Most of us have been hurt and slighted and maligned and betrayed and maybe abused in our lives without ever experiencing real reconciliation and healing. We suffer the loss of loved ones, the loss of dreams and many other disappointments without ever being able to make sense out of things. We hold it in and move on….or maybe vent it out on others randomly as we move through life. Our unmet needs for reconciliation and healing will weaken us over time and often make us less able to resist sin. We slide into lifestyle patterns where we just expect less of ourselves and others. This is the opposite of what God intends for us.
This weekend I have spent a few hours listening to a Virtual Catholic Conference on healing. This free webinar features a variety of teachings and personal testimonies on God’s healing in their lives from addiction, trauma, personal losses, conflicted relationships and other issues. Healing and driving out demons were a big part of Jesus’ ministry and it remains a big part of ours. Healing is a big part of life and we need to get better at it. We often sin out of our weakness and lack of social and community support.
You can still tune into the different presentations today for free and for a small fee can have access to the whole conference for 90 days. The link can be found on our parish website.
Like many of you I have tuned my ears in a time or two to the news regarding the nomination of yet another Catholic to the Supreme Court; Amy Barret. Her confirmation is likely to be contentious because she is feared to lean against the right to legalized abortion and popular aspects of Obama care. Abortion especially is considered a ‘battleground’ issue where everyone is more righteous than the other.
It might be partly Catholics’ fault for allowing the abortion issue to be all too often reduced to legal vitriol. It can appear like an attractive place to take a stand because it seems black and white. To some degree it is, but when dealing with people we know things are more complex.
Please notice in today’s bulletin two more opportunities to get educated on a more fully pro-life position.
(See Fr. Rick’s Pastoral Messages for September 24, 25 on the St. Christopher website: kanabcatholicchurch.org).