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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

The man says to his two sons, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.”  The statement is clear and simple.  It probably came as no surprise to them.

The first son says he will not.  No reason is given but his response is as clear and simple as his father’s directive.  However, later this son changes his mind and does what his father directed.

On the other hand, the second son says he will do as directed by the father but he doesn’t.

Do we do as God directs or don’t we?

Jesus offers this situation as a teaching lesson to the chief priests and elders.  He equates them to the second son who says he will do his father’s will but doesn’t.  They profess to be God’s disciples but they fall short.

On the other hand, Jesus says the tax collectors and prostitutes, who the priests and elders know to be sinners, have realized the error of their ways and turned to Jesus.

So, who gets into Heaven?

The scene that Jesus described today is offered in the context of a specific day when the father gave his directive.  To think in terms of God’s directive, how do we evaluate a lifetime of decisions in light of our faith?

We would like to be evaluated based on the good we have done and have the bad overlooked.  Or perhaps our judgment could at least be done on the basis that we have done more good than bad.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord warns us that even if we do good most of our lives but then turn away from virtue, we will die.  On the other hand, if we have been living in wickedness but turn to what is “right and just,” we will live.  To live is to be with God.  To die is eternal separation from God.

The reality is that we probably have all done something that we regret.  We are sinners.  Hopefully, we have all also done something that is good but doing good is not always easy.  The choice between good and evil is just that, a choice.

We would like it to be easy to always choose good but we know that what is evil can be pretty tempting.  It can bring short term pleasure or immediate gratification that we seek.

We might say what’s wrong with having a little fun or pleasure.  We can become selfish in the moment and not see the bigger picture.  If we do this often, we look not just the little things in selfish ways but the big decisions too.

But to be selfish can lead to not loving our neighbor as Jesus teaches.  It can lead to not loving God because we think we know what is best.

“What’s in it for me” is not a Christian question.  It might seem natural.  It can be the question that society tells us to ask but Jesus shows us another way.

Jesus was with God in Heaven.  He “was in the formed of God” but “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus could have chosen to be selfish and said, “I have nothing to gain for myself by becoming human.”  He had nothing to gain for himself but he didn’t become human for himself.  He became human for us.  He was obedient to God our Father for our sake, not his.

Are we willing to be obedient (like Jesus) to God?

We don’t like to be obedient.  When we are teenagers and our parents tell us to do something we don’t want to, instead of being obedient, we sometimes say to them that you just don’t want me to have any fun, even when what our parents are saying is what it is best.

We do the same thing with God.  We just want to have a little fun, right?  It can’t be that bad.  Then we journey down the slippery slope away from God to sin.

How often do we involve God in the choices we make?  I’m willing to bet that many make a lot of choices without any consideration to what God would want us to do.  We think that we generally have the answers and we only turn to God when we are stumped.

Then, do we ever ask God what to do?  Or we turn to him only when we are in trouble and can’t fix it ourselves?

Now, we can’t always stop and have a long conversation with God about what we are supposed to do in every situation that comes up.  That’s why we need to be in regular conversation with God.

Here I want to say that by “regular conversation” with God, “regular” begins with being at Mass every week but it doesn’t end there.  We need to need to humble ourselves like Jesus did in becoming human and pray in the context of the first stanza of today’s psalm, “Your ways, O LORD, make know to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my savior.

It starts with Mass and the homily but we need to read the Bible, attend opportunities to learn more about our faith, listen to CDs like the ones we have available in back of church, or do some spiritual reading.

I hope most of us could list the Ten Commandments but can you go deeper and talk about how they fit with how Jesus calls us to live today?  Jesus doesn’t just want us to follow rules.  Yes, God desires our “obedience” but not as a legal code but from what is in our hearts.

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