Sunday Sermon for September 28, 2014, the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32
In the Gospel reading today our Lord asks the question of which son did the will of his father: the one who said he would not go into the field but eventually did or the one who said he would go but never arrived there. This becomes a critically important reading for each of us who is baptized because we have told the Lord that we would reject Satan and all his lies and that we would serve the Lord. How many of us are actually doing what we have vowed?
Baptism is a great privilege for us because, among all of the other gifts it brings, it makes us sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Such a privilege also comes with a great deal of responsibility. We are each called to become like our Father; we are to be just, we are to be charitable, we are to be holy, etc. We do not live in a world where justice, charity and holiness are seen as having a lot of value. For this reason many people do not strive for righteousness in their lives because they have been swept up in the current of the ways of the world.
St. Paul, in the second reading today, tells us that we are to have the same attitude as Jesus. He reminds us of our Lord’s self-emptying, His humility and His obedience. All of the things our Lord did were, of course, done because of His love for His Father and His love for us. Given the political and social climate of His day, the way He lived His life was certainly not one that was acceptable to those who were immersed in worldly affairs. Sadly, this included most of the leaders within Judaism at the time. Jesus had to be determined that He was going to do the will of God no matter what.
We all know the price He paid for this determination. He could have compromised in order to fit in and be accepted, but He would not. Being politically correct was never something our Lord was interested in doing. How determined are we to do the will of God? How much or in what ways are we willing to compromise the truth of God in order to fit in with the world?
These become important questions for us because we are defined by our union with Jesus. Are we willing to buck against the prevailing mores in order to practice charity to those in need? Are we willing to be persecuted and rejected by others because of our fidelity to the Lord? Are we willing to be true children of our Father?
If we were to make this a little more tangible, we could ask if we love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. We could consider whether we are truly honest, whether or not we uphold the rights and dignity of all people, whether we are chaste in thought and action. We like to think that we are doing well in these areas until there is an opportunity for self gain at the expense of another, there is a chance to gossip, something happens where we find ourselves speaking uncharitably about a different race or class of people, a picture of a scantily clad individual catches our eye.
It is in judging ourselves against the example of our Lord that helps us to put these kinds of things into perspective. We have an obligation to keep striving to become more like God in our lives, not only because we are made in His image, but because we share in His nature and we want to be with Him for eternity. In the first reading God says through Ezekiel that if a righteous person turns from being righteous and gives himself over to wrongdoing, that person will die in his sins. On the other hand, if a person turns from wickedness to do what is right, that person will live because of the virtue he has chosen to practice.
In our humanness we like to compare ourselves to other people and find that we are not so bad. The problem with this is not only that it boosts our pride, but more importantly, that we are not going to be judged according to the measure of those other people. God is our judge and He will judge us according to the measure of Jesus. Therefore, we have to strive to conform our minds and wills to the mind and will of the Lord. This is what we promised God that we would do; this is how we promised Him that we would live our lives. Perhaps we have failed up to now, but we can still repent and strive to do the will of our Father.
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.