Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As a youngster I remember well my habit of saying “No” to my dear Mother (not my Father!)- when she requested I do some chore or errand. I knew well, each time, that I intended to do it – but I received a certain perverse satisfaction in that initial “NO”. Such a disposition, was not uniquely mine (I hope!), but one can see it in its adult form in the person of the 2nd son described by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
The Gospel we just heard – places before us two attitudes towards God and
his Kingdom. From time to time, our attitude toward God may resemble one or the other, unless our response is – a saint’s enduring and unqualified :Yes”,- or is the definitive “No” of the confirmed sinner. Jesus, in this Gospel, describes the differing attitudes of two sons. From the context, we see that one represents the ’righteous’ people – the chief priests and elders of the people – who faulted Jesus for eating with tax collectors and prostitutes. The second – represents the outcasts who initially refuse to join the kingdom, but then repent.
It’s important that we understand the context of today’s Gospel. Jesus was speaking these words to the chief priests and elders of the people, the guides and leaders. As such, they were the ones least inclined to accept changes in the interpretation of the Scriptures or of its moral code. If we, on the other hand, regard ourselves as concerned and generous Christians, as upright persons who know what the Lord expects of us and feel sure that we are faithful to his demands – we have a disposition similar to those to whom Jesus directed the words in today’s Gospel.
When we are so sure we know and accept God’s demands, we remain where we are and what we are!
In today’s second reading (Phil.) Paul is telling us that the only way to free ourselves from bondage to the inconsistancies in today’s Gospel , is to grow in love! We become free and participate more fully in the Kingdom – to the extent that we develop our love within the community of believers ,as a member – with the members of Christ. Paul’s words to the Philipians contain a message the Church is in vital need of today, that its members are in need of unanimity, in need of possessing one love, in need of being united in spirit and ideals.
As members of Christ through our Baptism, we are rooted and grounded in Christ, called to share in his redemptive love, his ‘kenosis’ (self-emptying).
We believe this, we confess this. In itself, this is not sufficient; we must also put our faith into practice. We must do good, not simply talk about it!
What is this good we must do? Again, Paul spells it out for us. We are never to act out of rivalry or conceit, rather, let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves, looking to others’ interest rather than one’s own . What is good? In the word’s of the prophet Micah: “What does he require of us – but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God!”
What the Lord requires of us – he enables us to do.
To know the greatest act of self-denial the world has ever seen – or will see –
we have but to look at the Cross! The words of Jesus – to those who would be his disciples…”Come follow me!”
Let our “Yes” to Jesus be – to follow Jesus on the way of self-denial, constant and progressive self-denial. (A good description of our monastic vow of ‘Con-
version of Manners’!) – to let God use us and resurrect us when and as he chooses. Amen.