Sunday Sermon for September 27, 2020, 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 we must have the same attitude as Christ. St. Paul goes on to explain that our Lord was humble and obedient. His humility was so great that He, Who is the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, was willing to take on the nature of a slave and His obedience was so profound that He was obedient even to the point of death on a cross.
On the day of our baptism, each of us vowed to reject Satan and to live our lives for the Lord. Most of us have probably not done a good job at this. Perhaps, recognizing this truth, we have renewed our commitment to Christ, only to fall back again into our former ways. Some of us have probably done this multiple times.
Thankfully, as we hear in the first reading, the Lord in His mercy is willing to forgive our failures and wants us to begin again. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord makes it clear that if we turn away from virtue to commit iniquity we are in trouble, but if we turn from the iniquity we have committed to do what is right and just, we will be saved. God knows our weaknesses and He also knows our intentions; He knows the dispositions of our heart. If our basic disposition has changed so that we turn from what is right and just to pursue iniquity and not virtue, then we need to be worried. If we fall through weakness but are truly intent on serving God and neighbor, then we will very quickly turn to God and repent. As I often tell people: if we die trying, God will be merciful. We do not need to fret if our hearts are truly with the Lord.
Our main concern is making sure our disposition is correct and that we are striving to be charitable and humble and obedient to God’s Will. In this regard we must be careful. It is easy for us to give lip service about doing many virtuous things, but it is in our actions that we demonstrate our obedience to God’s Will. How many times do we say we will not give into temptation, only to waffle as soon as things begin to get difficult? If we are going to have the attitude of Christ, we need to be humble and acknowledge our need for God’s grace. Then we will be able to express the dispositions of our hearts in our choices and actions in the practical order.
In the Gospel, Jesus asks His audience for their opinion about two sons who are told individually by their father to go and work in the vineyard. The first son rejected his father’s request, but later regretted his decision and went to work in the vineyard. The second son told his father he would go to the vineyard, but never actually went. Jesus asked simply: ”Which of the two did his father’s will?” When the opinion came back that the first son did his father’s will, Jesus told His audience that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before those in His audience: the Chief Priests and the elders of Israel.
Perhaps we recognize ourselves in the situation where we have told the Lord we will go, but then we have failed to actually go. If so, we need to get up and go into the “vineyard” and work as the Lord has asked. Even if we have failed to report for work as we have promised, our Lord clearly leaves open the possibility of doing what the Father has asked.
Perhaps we recognize ourselves in the “tax collectors and prostitutes” category. If we are willing to make the necessary changes in our lives, then we can put our past behind and go into the vineyard of our Father and work with the full freedom of the children of God.
On our part, we need humility to admit that what we have been doing is not right. Maybe our actions are not as serious as actual prostitution or stealing as the tax collectors often did at the time of our Lord, but we need to judge ourselves not only on our external actions, but on our spiritual dispositions. Do we desire to change? Are we willing to be obedient to the will of God? This sounds relatively easy until we try to change and do the will of God. We need humility to see and acknowledge our faults; we need grace to die to self and live for the Lord. Humility and obedience can be very difficult for us, but they become easy when we have the same attitude as Christ and do them for love of God.
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 www.thewandererpress.com.