FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Ezekiel 18:25-28 | Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 | Philippians 2:1-11 OR 2:1-5 | Matthew 21:28-32
Our readings for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time tell us that the demands of Christian living are not easy. It doesn't matter if you sound good. It doesn't matter if everyone thinks you're good. What matters is if you are good and you prove that by your actions which shows that you believe in Jesus and do what he says.
On their diamond wedding anniversary, Lola Merang revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage to Lolo Domeng. "On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband's faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook," she explained. A guest asked her to name some of the faults. "Truth be told," she replied, "I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me extremely angry, I would say to myself, 'Lucky for him that's one of the ten."
We’ve all done it- caught up in a relationship fight and sensing we’re losing, we go for the kill by bringing in another similar mistake our partner has committed in the past. None of us can change the past. So bringing up old disagreements during a fight simply makes your partner feel trapped and helpless. Never bring up a "crime" of the past. Drop what’s been and gone and focus on the present issue causing your relationship conflict. Today's first reading comes from a book written during the 6th century B.C.E. for Jews sent into exile after losing war with Babylon. Ezekiel assured them that as long as they obeyed God's law, they remained God's children. And even when they sinned, God was always ready to take them back if they repented. In other words, a person will be judged by the new life to which he or she has turned, not by his or her previous life.
Ivan, 9, sitting in church asked Marco, his father, “Daddy, who is a Christian?” his father, replied, “A Christian is a person who loves and obeys God. He loves his friends and neighbors, and even his enemies. He prays often, is kind, gentle, and holy, and is more interested in going to heaven than in all earthly riches. That, son, is a Christian!” Ivan looked puzzled and thought for a minute, then asked, “Have I ever seen one?”
What makes for an authentic Christian? Whether we opt for the longer or the shorter form, the Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, focuses on the makings of an authentic Christian, as well as an authentic Christian community. In short, a Christian is someone who conscientiously models his or her life on that of Christ, and a Christian community is any gathering of Christians made one by the Holy Spirit living among them. The model, then, that the apostle Paul held up for Christian behavior was the model of the obedient Son.
A soap manufacturer and a priest were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The priest made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the priest said, “I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt, and many dirty people around.” The soap man said, “Oh, well, soap is only useful when it is applied.” And the priest said, “Exactly, so it is with the Gospel.”
What makes a true Israelite is the subject of the parable in today's Gospel. Jesus told this story in reply to the challenges he had just received from chief priests and the elders, whose lack of faith was keeping them from recognizing Jesus' divine origins. Jesus compares two sons to two groups of people. The first group spoke piously but did nothing; the second group included sinners who eventually acted in faith and repentance. Despite their fine education and the strictness of their daily regimen, Jesus warned, the chief priests and the elders were actually putting themselves further from the heart of God than Israel's many notorious sinners who had been transformed by the Gospel he was preaching. Yes, cheating tax collectors and their sinners who believed John the Baptist and changed their ways will get to Heaven before them! The sin of the virtuous might be their refusal to act, their refusal to believe. The repentance of the sinners revealed their belief and resulted in action. Still today, this parable comes as stern rebuke to believers who think they already know and do all that is required for personal holiness. In truth, there is always more to know and to do. As priest-mystic Saint Pio of Pietrelcina taught, "It is difficult to become a saint. Difficult, but not impossible. The road to perfection is long — as long as one’s lifetime.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum