Sunday Sermon for October 1, 2023, the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32

In the second reading today, St. Paul tells us that we should have the same attitude as Jesus.  This makes perfect sense since we are all members of Jesus who share in His life and His divine nature.  The attitude of Jesus, as St. Paul goes on to explain, is one of charity and humility.  It is purely out of love and humility that Jesus, Who is God, took our lowly human nature to Himself.  It is also purely out of love and humility that Jesus accepted death on a Cross. 

This is the disposition of Jesus that St. Paul uses to explain why we should be of the same mind and the same love.  We are, he says, to do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory, and we are to regard others as more important than ourselves.  For this reason, we need to look out for the interests of others and not only for our own interests.

What St. Paul is asking is not easy.  In fact, it grates against our fallen and selfish nature.  But St. Paul is only asking us to be who we were created to be and to do what we were created to do.  Jesus came into this world not only to save and redeem us, but also to teach us by word and example how we are supposed to live our lives.  If we are going to live according to the way of our Lord, then we must begin by having the same attitude of charity and humility that we see in Jesus.  Without this as the foundation, we will not be able to fully live out any of His teachings or follow His example.

This brings us to the point we see in the Gospel reading where our Lord asks the question about who did the will of the father in the parable: the son who said he would go into the vineyard but did not, or the son who said he would not go but then changed his mind and did what his father had requested.  Of course, we could add other possibilities to this list: those who refused to go and those who went immediately. 

Each of us is baptized into Jesus.  At the moment of our baptism we, in essence, said we would do the Father’s will.  Some may object that they were only babies when they were baptized and, therefore, did not make such a commitment of their own free will.  Like many things that happened when we were young, our parents made that decision for us.  If there is still an objection, then now is the time that each of us is being asked to make this commitment to do the Father’s will.  Which will it be: yes then no, like the first son?; or no then yes, like the second son?

No one is exempt from making this decision.  Perhaps some will say that they have not lived a good life, so they cannot choose for the Lord.  In the Gospel, our Lord spoke of the prostitutes and the tax collectors who are entering into the Kingdom of Heaven because they repented of what they had been doing.  If you have not lived your life according to the way of Christ, it is never too late to repent and get your life on the right track.

Remember what happens to our soul when we go to confession.  Our sins are forgiven, but more than that, they are removed from our soul.  God removes the sins and destroys them so they are no longer there.  The effects of the sins remain (memories, inclinations, etc.) but the sin is gone.  When God looks at your soul, nothing you have confessed is there.  Every confession is a new beginning.  So, even if your life has not been good to this point, confession and the forgiveness of sin can provide a starting point for a new way of life.

This is similar to the second son who said he would not go to work in the vineyard as his father had requested, but then changed his mind and went.  It would be great if we could all be like St. Therese and strive to be saints from the time we were toddlers, but that is not the case for most of us.  Thankfully, many other Saints are like us, that is, they were off track for a while, but then turned things around and lived in newness of life. What this means, even for those who have been living good lives, is to look at our disposition.  Are we trying to be good only because it is the right thing or, perhaps, because it comes easily?  We need to go deeper and take on the attitude of Christ, living in charity and humility. 

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit