23 Oct Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Shawn Hughes
October 1st, 2017
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
‘I will not,’ says the first son but afterwards changed his mind and went. ‘Yes, sir,’ says the second but he does not go.”
Who did the will of the Father?
The answer is obvious. The first; the one who changes his mind and eventually goes.
The Pharisees immediately knew that Jesus was indicting them. They had the law. They had heard the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus. But they did not follow it.
The tax collectors and prostitutes, the most vilified members of their society, were being held up as those who did not follow the law, but heard the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus…and changed.
The tax collectors, the prostitutes, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Himself, and the Pharisees all agreed that: Doing God’s will is always the course of action that must be taken. This parable highlights the fact that some, even though they knew God’s will was the best course of action…chose not to follow it.
I would hazard to say that this gospel is more radical and more challenging today than it ever has been…even to those who heard it from the lips of the Lord Himself. We live in a radically secularized society that’s premise is the exact opposite. The Moral Relativism of our day takes the position that what is right and wrong is culturally based, subject to the individual’s choices. We can decide what is right for ourselves. Moral relativism has no objective truth…it says “it’s true for me, if I believe it.”
The prostitutes and tax collectors of Jesus time thought like this originally. But when they heard John the Baptist’s and the Lord’s preaching they recognized the truth. They recognized the weakness and limits that was their human natures and they changed. The Pharisees felt they were right. They even recognized truth in John the Baptist’s and the Lord’s preaching…but would not change.
Today’s gospel clearly asks who is more worthy of praise…those who promise to fulfill God’s will or those who actually do fulfill it. It demands that we examine the quality of our fulfilling of God’s will.
The Lord Jesus despised hypocrisy more than almost every other sin. The word hypocrite comes from the Greek hypokritḗs which was common term used of actors on the Greek stage. It referred to those who wore masks, those who represented a different persona than their true selves and thus came to mean those who are false. The Lord Jesus called those who preach the truth but live falsely “white washed tombs, serpents, brood of vipers, blind guides.” (Matthew 23). Like the prophet Ezekiel in today’s reading, the Lord went so far as to declare that salvation depends precisely on what we do, not merely on what we say or claim to believe: “It is not those who say to me, Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew &:21). The Letter of St. James puts it much more bluntly: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26)
Neither son in the parable treated the Father with the respect and obedience he was due. Nor was God pleased with the hypocrisy or greed or lust of the tax collectors and prostitutes. But clearly the first son, humiliated and humbled by how he had treated his Father, changed his mind: he went and did the Father’s will. The tax collectors and prostitutes, humiliated and humbled when they heard the preaching of John the Baptist and the Lord, changed and began to do the will of the Father
This is a parable of conversion, of repentance,…parable of recognizing the will of the Father and shaping our lives to it. In fact that is what St. Augustine said is the purpose of our prayer. We enter into prayer so that more and more our own individualistic will be shaped more and more to the will of God.
There are times when we are like the first son. Immediately say no, realize our error, change our mind and repent. All too often we are like the second son…saying yes …doing everything externally that is correct but our hearts are not converted…we do not repent…we stubbornly remain firm in our own thoughts, our own desires, our own actions, even though we know we are not doing the will of the Father.
We are called to be like the perfectly faithful Son of the Second Reading. St. Paul says do nothing from selfish ambition. Do nothing from conceit. But in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Don’t look to your own interests but to the interests of others.
Jesus is the human icon of the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father’s will. St. Paul, at his most stunningly lyrical, points to Christ Jesus and exhorts us all:
5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus:
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Self-sacrificial love, self-emptying, not grasping at our due, not exploiting our advantage, humility, obedience to the Father…
This is the mind of Christ as St. Paul lays it out…
and what is the result…St. Paul goes on
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Father in the gospel’s directive: “Go and work in the vineyard today.” is directed to each one of us. The ideal response is not stated in the gospel but clearly implied… “Yes, I will go”…and actually going!
Self emptying, Self-sacrificial love, not grasping at our due, not exploiting our advantage, humility, obedience to the Father
In the major decisions of life and in also our every day smaller decisions…converted hearts, repentant hearts, hearts open to doing the will of the Father!
As we pray so often in the Lord’s Prayer…“ Thy kingdom come……Thy will be done! now…on earth…as it is in heaven.”
Similar to the dismissal at the end of Mass the Father says to each us today and every day, “Go and work in the vineyard!” Glorifying Him by your life.
that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. We can all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me. Moral relativism says, “It’s true for me, if I believe it.”
GOOD ACTIONS SHOW LOVE
Brothers and sisters
- It is tough to obey God’s demands because they are often difficult and unexpected. We often lose interest in religious practices when we acquire human securities and material goods. How often we find Christians that act like those Pharisees! They place their security in nonessential practices and at the same time reject certain contents of the faith or disagree with the moral norms of the Church. Devotions such as novenas, pilgrimages to holy sites, public penances, the use of sacred images, songs and expressions of joy or sorrow, etc., only have meaning if they are accompanied by conversion, a conversion expressed in serving others and obeying the Commandments.
The parable of the two sons is direct and to the point. “A father had two sons.” The difference between the two brothers can be paralleled to two prominent attitudes of ancient Israel: those who considered themselves as good people who didn’t need conversion, and those who knew that they were sinners and wanted to change. It was clear to the Pharisees that Christ was referring to them because they “only paid lip service”. They remembered Jesus’ saying: “Not everyone who cries out ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father”.
- In the parable, the father gives his sons the command “Go work in the vineyard.” Every day it is more and more urgent for Christians to be witnesses of Christ in the midst of a secular, relativistic world. Evil is everywhere, yet it only takes a little yeast to ferment dough, a little salt to preserve meat, and a small flock to preserve the faith. St. James never tired of repeating that “faith without works is dead,” and we always hear that “the heart has reasons that the mind doesn’t know.”
What will we be asked on the judgment day? Saint Paul says “God will repay each one according to his deeds.” And Saint Peter Chrysologus adds that “incoherence is a subtle evil, a secret infection, a hidden poison.” All too often we hear: “I’m Catholic, but not practicing”.
- Sometimes I ask good Christians if they are practicingtheir faithand they tell me, “Of course. I go to Mass every Sunday”. But what about the other Sacraments? Take a look at your life. Do you fulfill all the Commandments? Do you do works of mercy? Do you help others? Do you think about the salvation of your soul? Do you pray? Do you give others a good example of Christian life? Are you perhaps committing sins of omission? The Gospel gives a clear standard of coherence: “If you love me you will keep my Commandments.”
Today let us decide to continue the revolution that Christ brought to the world: the revolution of love. In Christ’s eyes, the just person isn’t the one who fulfills the exterior law, but rather the one who is capable of freeing himself from human attachments and securities. Let us predispose out hearts towards God in the same way as St. Teresa of Jesus: “I am yours. I was made for you. What do you wish me to do?”
invitations to love found in Christian Marriage and Family life. The Greek word translated emptied in the letter of St Paul to the Philippians is kenosis. He wrote concerning our call to enter into the self-emptying of Jesus, Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself.(Phil. 2:5)
This Greek word refers to the voluntary pouring out-like water-of oneself in sacrificial love. This emptying is the proper response to the One who first loved us. It lies at the heart of every vocation. For those called to live Christian marriage and family life. There is a domestic kenosis, a domestic emptying out in the ordinary stuff of daily life. There is also a domestic ascesis, a way of living an ascetical life, by embracing the struggles involved in this vocation in Christ.
Christian Marriage is a Sacrament, a participation in the very life of God. We cooperate with the Lord’s invitation to follow Him by exercising our human freedom; we choose to give ourselves away in love to the other, our spouse. Together we pour ourselves out for God’s children entrusted to our care. In so doing, we are transformed into an image, a living icon, of Jesus Christ and participate in His own Kenosis. Then, out of that base of practical holiness we participate in the Mission of the Church by living in the world which He still loves so much that He sends His Son (John 3:16) – through you and me.
As our conversation ensued I detected in her an understandable concern for the resources, emotional, spiritual, relational and financial, which one choice they might make could entail. I told the wife and mother of the family to let go and do what God asks, not worrying about whether the resources and means would be made available. I made it eminently clear that I did not know Gods specific will for them in this critical choice – but I did know of Gods faithfulness.
As they persisted in their questions, I told them that my experience has been that when He asks He always provides the means and the resources. However, He also invites us to respond in living faith. I directed them to the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews which reminds us in its opening words that, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I have prayed every day since our meeting for this dear family and the important decision they must make very soon. Among the many prayers which provide a springboard in my own daily choice to surrender to the Will of God is a beautiful prayer of entrustment to the Will of God by John Henry Cardinal Newman called I Have a Mission with which I conclude:
God knows me and calls me by my name..
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission-I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes.
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me-
still He knows what He is about..
Let me be Thy instrument. I ask not to see-
I ask not to know-I ask simply to be used.
An idea that arises from today’s readings is that of changing one’s mind. Ability 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.)
Today’s Gospel illustrates the value and nobility of revising our decisions. 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 (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 have a strong tendency to cling to whatever we have. The new-born baby needs 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 to things. He knew that ultimate reality could be trusted, because that ultimate reality is “Abba, dear Father,” and holding everything together, even death itself, 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.
Vatican City, Jan 27, 2015 / 04:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis dedicated his homily at Mass on Tuesday to the theme of obeying God’s will, saying a Christian should have a heart like Mary, who was open and obedient to all that God asked of her.
“Do I pray that the Lord gives me the desire to do his will, or do I look for compromises because I’m afraid of God’s will?” the Pope asked the attendees of his Jan. 27 Mass, held in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
The Roman Pontiff encouraged those present to pray in order “to know God’s will for me and my life, concerning a decision that I must take; the way in which we handle things … there are so many things.”
First, he said, there is the need to pray to know God’s will, then to pray for the desire to do it, and finally when we have these things, we pray “for the third time, to follow it. To carry out that will, which is not my own, it is his will. And all this is not easy.”
Pope Francis centered his homily on the day’s first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, in which the apostle affirms that rather than seeking burnt offerings and sacrifices, God desires an obedient heart.
Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden “brought evil to the whole of humanity,” the Pope noted, saying their primary sin was that of not doing God’s will.
There is no other path to heaven than obedience, he said, explaining that “it begins with Jesus in Heaven, in his desire to obey the Father. But here on earth it begins with Our Lady.”
When Mary told the Angel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” she allowed God’s will to be carried out through her, and with her ‘Yes’ to God “our Lord began his journey amongst us.”
However, following God’s will is “not easy,” the Roman Pontiff observed, noting how even Christ faced temptations in the desert before beginning his public ministry, as well as in the Garden of Olives before his passion and death.
If it was not easy for Christ, then it will not be easy for us either, he said, which is why it is so important to pray for knowledge of God’s will, to have the desire to do it, and then pray to carry it out.
Pope Francis then turned to the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, in which Christ, while seated with a crowd of people, is told that his mother and relatives had arrived.
When approached and informed of their presence, Christ indicated that the people he was sitting with were his relatives, saying, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
The Lord grants this opportunity of obedience to each individual, the Roman Pontiff said, so that everyone can be a part of that group who crowded around Christ, and of whom he said “here is my mother and my brothers and my sisters.”
Doing God’s will, he concluded, “makes us become part of Jesus’ family; it makes us his mother, father, sister, brother.”
Gospel: Mt 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”