Homilies & Official Statements
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
October 1, 2017
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.”
I have two friends who started smoking at age thirteen and who both became chain smokers. As is normal with all the propaganda against tobacco, one often said that no one was going to tell him what to do and what not to do. The other said he would quit. Today the first has stopped smoking for many years, the other still does.
I suppose the friend who is still smoking is like so many others who say they will do things but lack the resolve to get those things done. The other friend at first was not in agreement but later on saw the wisdom of doing what he first refused to do and then did it. If attitudes and actions like these occur on the secular level, it is so much more true on the level of the kingdom or the level of discipleship. Jesus, as is his custom, teaches his disciples by way of a very human story. Two sons are asked by their father to go to the vineyard. One says “‘I will not” but then changed his mind and went. The other said “I will” but never went. Jesus then asks a question which goes to the heart of the matter. Which of the two did his father’s will?.
For all of us, disciples of Jesus, the important thing in life is to do the Father’s will, and in order to do the Father’s will we have to move from good intentions to resolve. It is necessary to come to resolve because so often the Father’s will calls us to row against the tide. In essence we are called to move from speaking about the Kingdom to doing things about the Kingdom.
All of us fight this battle from our childhood. We all know the battle with parents to bathe in the morning before heading out to school, and then the battle over getting the homework done, and the struggle over writing papers at university or fixing the creaking door that the wife has asked us to fix so long ago. Today the struggle continues in the diet that I need to start and the exercise programme that the doctor has recommended. It is there in the confrontation that I need to make, or the apology that needs to be given but that is put off again and again.
Today the Gospel invites us to be people of resolve. It invites us to stop putting off doing the things that must be done, both in the secular and more importantly in the religious spheres.
The Gospel is however good news and today there is a lot of good news for us. The Gospel tells us that tax collectors and prostitutes, those who initially said “NO” to the message have found a way to accept it and to live the message with resolve and because of living the message with resolve are entering the kingdom. They listened to John the Baptist and were converted.
Living the message with resolve is the characteristic of Kingdom people. This is the witness of those like Msgr. Romero who in spite of threats to their lives continue proclaiming the Gospel of Justice. It is the witness of those missionaries who continue to spread the Gospel message in far off lands. It is the witness of so many in our land who very quietly go about living Kingdom values in spite of every encouragement to the contrary. We thank God for them and we pray that they remain constant in saying “YES” to the Father and in doing his will.
The gospel also challenges us. Are we people of resolve so that we do that to which we have said “Yes”? and we must include in this the living of the Gospel message. To do anything less is to exclude ourselves from the Kingdom.
All powerful and ever-loving God, out of your overwhelming love for us you call us to be citizens of your kingdom even now while we are still on earth. We thank you for choosing us, a choice which we have not merited in any way. Help us to choose you in response. Your Gospel today reminds us that to be faithful to our choice in word and action, we must be people of resolve, not putting things off to a later time which may never come but striking while the iron is hot. When we are faced with choices which are countercultural, give us the grace of your courage and strength so that we may be steadfast in our response. We ask this through the intercession of all the saints, our ancestors in the faith and through Jesus your son who was steadfast in doing your will. Amen