27Sep 26th Sunday, Year A

27 September, 2020. 26th Sunday, Year A

Apparent outsiders may be closer to God than their supposed betters. Social or religious standing means little in the sight of God. The dictum “actions speak louder than words” is fleshed out in the parable of the two sons, neither of whom does what he says he will do. Doing good actions is better than speaking fine words

1st Reading: Ezekiel 18:25-28

God deals justly with us, forgiving the sinner who repents and rewarding those who persevere

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.

Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.

Responsorial: Psalm 24:4-9

Response: Remember your mercies, O Lord

Lord, make me know your ways.
 Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
 for you are God my saviour.

Remember your mercy, Lord,
 and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth.
 In your love remember me,
 because of your goodness, O Lord.

The Lord is good and upright.
 He shows the path to those who stray,
he guides the humble in the right path;
 he teaches his way to the poor.

2nd Reading: Philippians 2:1-11

Unity depends on Christians imitating the humility of Christ who became obedient unto death

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

The parable of the two sons reminds us that good actions speak louder than fine words

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders: “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

BIBLE

May your words, O Lord, enlighten our inmost heart. May they guide us through the storms of life and keep us near to you.


Not a Members-Only Club

Until around 1900, bishops in Ireland were chosen only from the ranks of the aristocracy. Of course, there was a good economic reason for this: they had to be self-supporting because the people were too poor to pay them. But it was equally true in wealthy countries like France. There too the first requirement in a bishop was that he be from the ranks of the nobility. The great mass of the lower clergy, parish priests and curates, were excluded from bishoprics. Some of the trappings of aristocracy still survive in the church, titles like “princes of the church,” living in “palaces’, forms of address like “Your Lordship” and offering a ringed hand to be kissed rather than shaken. One of the last aristocratic appointments in Ireland was appointed Bishop of Cork, where he served for twenty-three years. When his brother, Lord Dunboyne died, he abandoned the Catholic church, became a Protestant and married to ensure an heir to the family. Ironically, he failed to produce an heir. Rome had lost a bishop while the Dunboyne lineage died out.

The beginning of the end of the aristocratic world came when the French Revolution abolished hereditary titles and made all citizens equal before the law. The world of the common man was begun and now what titles remain are largely honourary. But old habits die hard, and not only in the church. A new elite has replaced the old. Aristocrats have given way to plutocrats. The exclusive world of privilege never really dies. It only changes hands. The modern rich have all the trappings of the old nobility, save the titles. They live in security-guarded palatial homes and frequent exclusive clubs, to protect them from contamination from the common herd.

The need for exclusivity and superiority seems imbedded in human nature and has invaded even the sanctuary. The Jews were happy with their exclusivity, excluding not only pagans from God’s favour, but even the Samaritans who failed their rigid test of orthodoxy. Jesus was indignant when he told the chief priests and elders, “Prostitutes and tax-collectors are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.” From the Jewish elders to Calvin’s elect, to our own former mantra “outside the church there is no salvation’, exclusivity is a temptation to religious people. With the diminishing numbers of church-goers and religion no longer a mass phenomenon, we may be more than ever tempted to circle the wagons. So Jesus’ warning to the Jews has a special relevance for us today, as a warning against seeing the church as a “Members-Only” Club.

Keeping an Open Mind

A theme common to all three readings is that of changing one’s mind. Our capacity to change our minds leaves us open to hazard and to hope; hazard when we choose to “renounce our integrity and to commit sin, hope when we choose to renounce sin to become law-abiding and honest” (Isaiah.)

The Gospel story shows us the nobility of a humble change of mind. The first son “thought the better of it.” He was open to change, to better thoughts. The second son was set and closed. The ability to change one’s mind is essential to all healthy relationships. A mind that is closed, whether from pride, stubbornness or stupidity, tends to destroy all relationships–e.g., when we refuse to admit a mistake, when we are unwilling to apologise and change our ways, when we persist in prejudice against a person or group, when we think we know it all.

The second reading, from Philippians, talks of a more specific and positive change of mind: “in your minds, you must be the same as Christ Jesus’, or as an older translation put it, “let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” This is the direction in which we must be constantly changing our minds day by day.

Paul emphasises one aspect in particular of the mind of Christ–his humble openness and self-emptying in contrast to the conceited grasping and clinging of Adam: “he did not cling to (or grasp at) his equality with God (as Adam did in Eden) but emptied himself..”

Ever since Adam, we are all born as clingers and graspers. The new-born babe has to have a tight grip, and as we get older the grip often gets stronger. Clinging permeates all of life; we cling to people (possessiveness) ; to things (greed) ; to power and position (ambition) ; we cling to opinions (pride.) At the root of our clinging lies fear and insecurity. The apparently strong person who clings aggressively to set ways or ideas is in reality full of fear. Notice your physical reactions to fright; you clench up and grasp at something or someone, as a frightened child clings to its mother.

In the Buddhist tradition, clinging is seen as the root of all suffering. When you are unhappy, it can be enlightening to pursue the question “What am I clinging to?” It might be an idea, a plan, an expectation, power, possessions, reputation, a place, a person, health, even life itself. All wise traditions recommend a light grasp of everything. Anxious clinging leads to misery. As soon as we begin to relax our tight grasp and let go, we begin to be free and happy. (“Letting go” is a useful modern equivalent for “self-emptying.”)

Jesus did not cling. He knew that reality could be trusted, because at the heart of reality is “Abba–dear Father,” and that underneath everything, even death, are the everlasting arms. So he did not cling even to life, “accepting death, death on a cross.” “Into your hands,. I commend my spirit.” May this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

My thoughts are not your thoughts

The basic thought of the Gospel reading is well expressed by the Isaiah passage: “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” Try as one will, it is impossible to find a way in which the payment of the workers in the vineyard could be said to be fair. The owner is generous to the last comers, but why is he not generous to the others as well? It is simply that there is no reckoning up deserts when man meets God.

In the time of Christ Judaism had reached a legalistic state, and the mentality was definitely prevalent that salvation could and must be earned. There was a host of commands which must be fulfilled, and men were divided into two classes, the righteous who were on the road to salvation by fulfilling the commands, and the unrighteous, outcasts despised by those who kept the law. It was this slot-machine conception of God that Jesus opposed by his emphasis on love, for in love there is no calculation of duties, rights and obligations; there is only an open-handed giving without counting the cost, and a grateful receiving. We can never say that we have earned our salvation, or anything from God, but can only stand suppliant before him. The latest workers in the vine-yard have not earned what the owner gives them, and the mistake of their envious colleagues is to think that they can deserve well of the owner.

The most devout Christians often secretly find it e hard to stomach that someone who repents on his deathbed is admitted to the kingdom no less than those who have struggled and suffered all their lives for God’s cause. But this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding. Not only does it presuppose the commercial attitude of reward and punishments from God, but also it neglects the nature of love. The sole relationship of the believer to God must be personal relationship of love, and as such it is its own reward, for it brings happiness also in this life. The greater the struggle and the suffering, the more a Christian turns to God and finds comfort–often the only comfort–in the security of his love. But fidelity through a long life brings some advantage over a hasty final conversion, for the relationship of love has so deepened over the years, conformed over a long period to the image of Christ, has more capacity for the full enjoyment of God’s company. It is not a matter of God giving a greater reward, but of the person being more prepared to receive it.

In the following of Christ, St Paul practiced what he preached. Writing from prison to the church in Philippi, he still finds joy and hope in Christ. He models his mind on Christ, and he longs for the fulfilment of final union in the afterlife.


2 Responses

  1. Kevin Walters

    The first son was honest, in the sense that he is openly rebellious (Shows himself) in how he actually is, before his Fathers command, nevertheless eventually in humility (Sees the reality of himself as he actually is) complies with his Fathers will.

    The second son wanted an image of goodness before his Father and was prepared to lie/deceive to sustain that image.
    It could be said that this deception continues within many of us still today, as it is reflected within our leader’s refusal to confront honestly the churches ongoing problems, as many of us also cling to a worldly image of goodness, while we act out the second son’s deception, one that emanates from pride.

    We can only hope and pray that we will all have the courage to face the full reality of our own brokenness and embrace humility, and then like the first son who showed warts and all return to the vineyard and produce much fruit.

    The difference between two sons is in the serving of the Truth, as it could be said one acted out of pride the other humility.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Thara Benedicta

    Key message:

    True repentance moves the heart of God.
    Self-righteousness displeases God and nullifies the good works.

    Homily:

    Opening story:
    Ramya was the only child of her parents. During the nationwide quarantine period, she started watching youtube DIY (Do it yourself) videos and became addicted to the same. She was not focusing on studies nor learning piano. Her parents tried to bring her out of the addiction, but it only increased the stress level among them. Peace was totally lost in the family. Ramya’s father came up with a plan. He told Ramya, “Hereafter, we will not stop you from watching youtube videos. But you have to earn your youtube time”. Every hour she had to study and write a test on what she had studied. She could watch DIY videos the rest of the time of the same hour. Plan worked out!! She work hard to earn her little bit of DIY time.
    Focusing on cultivating good habits will eventually keep us out of bad habits.

    Takeaway from first reading:

    The First reading clearly explains the true meaning of repentance. Repentance is not only feeling sorry for the sins we have committed; but turning away from them.
    When you need to repent of anything, don’t put it off for some other time. Go ahead and do it immediately. Ask forgiveness from God with a sense of repentance and be at peace. Please do not allow your thoughts to linger on the same past sins again. Believe that the blood of Jesus Christ has forgiven your sins.

    Change your thoughts and your actions will be changed.

    Takeaway from second reading:

    The Second reading says that Jesus was not interested in making a reputation for Himself. He did not work on making a name for Himself among the people or to be praised by all. He worked only on proclaiming God’s love not attaching any of His personal interest to it. Are we doing the same?

    A manipulative mind is a mind that always thinks ‘What’s in it for me?’ It keeps personal-interest in front rather than the needs of the community. If we humble ourselves before God and do not think about our personal gain or personal reputation, He will ensure that the right people know who we are and He will open the doors that need to be opened for us.
    If we continue working with our manipulative mind for our glory, then we will become people-pleasers instead of God pleasers.

    Jesus pleased God Almighty by humbly taking a human form and obediently undergoing a terrible death on the cross. Hence God exalted the name of Jesus above all names – in Heaven, on earth and under the earth.

    There is power in the name of Jesus. At the very mention of the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    The name of Jesus is a huge gift for us. Be it the chain of sin, sickness, unemployment, lack of peace, lack of money or whatever it may be – it is by the name of Jesus, every chain will be broken. All graces will be obtained in the name of Jesus. Use the powerful name of Jesus to break every chain in your life.

    Are we God pleasers or people pleasers?

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the pitiable condition of the self-righteous and the glorified condition of the repentant sinner.
    It’s a very important but often ignored truth in this generation: God alone is righteous.
    Self-righteousness is a sin, though nowadays it is not considered as a sin.

    Self-righteousness is the opposite of humility. Instead of thinking that I am not greater than my fellow people, it thinks I am the better than my fellow beings. It’s such a powerfully disastrous tool that can nullify all our good works.
    In the story of a Pharisee and the tax collector praying to God, the Pharisee was proud hearted – telling about his charity, fasting and all good works.

    The tax collector just bent down and repeated “God forgive me, for I am a sinner”.
    The repentant heart of the sinner moved the heart rather than the proud heart of the self-righteous Pharisee.

    Are we the self-righteous Pharisee?

    Tips for true repentance:

    1. When you feel that you need to repent of something, don’t put it off for a comfortable time. Go ahead and do it then and there. Ask for God’s forgiveness and do not allow guilt and condemnation to reside in you.

    2. The name of Jesus is powerful to break every chain. All chains of sins, sickness, financial requirements or lack of peace will be broken in His name. So always pray in the name of Jesus.

    3. In any discussion, suggest your views based on ‘What’s in it for us?’ instead of ‘What’s in it for me?’

    4. We should understand that Mr/Ms Perfect is beyond our reach and God does not expect us to be so. As soon as we commit a sin, we should ask for God to forgive us. In a day if we ensure that the total number of times we have victory over temptation is greater than the total number of times we fall to temptation, then we are growing spiritually.

    5. Do not tell God or anyone the good works that you do. God sees all things. His recompense will be much greater rather than whatever people give.

    6. When you do good, do it humbly, thanking God for giving the opportunity to do it.

    When we do good, we should be careful not to become self-righteous and when we repent, we should not waste time on guilt and condemnation.


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