Thus says the Lord: You say, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
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.”
We are all like both of these sons in the Gospel of Matthew today, whether we are men or women. The image is not about men, it is about humans. These images from the Gospel are meant to help us see ourselves as we are and to choose to follow God as much as we can. It is important not to think that somehow we can become perfect. Yes, we can aim at that, but the perfection is always in the love that we have for God and for others, not in achieving everything perfectly in all that we do.
The first reading today, from the Prophet Ezekiel, is such a clear invitation to turn away from sin. Right away we must recognize that this invitation is a life invitation. It is not something that you or I can do once and for all—except perhaps with an incredibly special grace from God. What is more normal is that we spend our whole life seeking to turn away from sin and to give our hearts and our actions to the Lord. It is an ongoing process until our death.
Thus we can see the spirituality of the second reading today, from the Letter to the Philippians: become obedient, even unto death. For Jesus our Savior, this was His whole life. For us, it can become our life, bringing us much joy and delight in the struggle. Even for Jesus, this obedience was a struggle, even though He was always obedient. For us, it is again the struggle to return to obedience when we fail and to keep trying to be obedience always.
The spiritual teaching of the readings today can be summed up in this sentence from the second reading: Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
Although this is truly simple advice, most of us cannot live it consistently and so we must struggle day after day. We want to live our relationship with God in such a way that we are responding to His love for us. Over and over most of us fail. What truly distinguishes a follower of Jesus is that the follower continues trying to be faithful, day after day, for a whole lifetime. We can understand the phrase: the Lord’s way is not fair, and yet we accept that God’s way are always fair and ours are not, so we keep trying to be faithful.
Every Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. We bear witness to the joy of the Resurrection but our faithfulness in seeking His will and in striving to be faithful. Our faith is renewed daily because we know God’s compassion and forgiveness. To Him be glory forever. Amen.