26th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A—2017

FIRST READING  Ezekiel 18:25-28

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.

SECOND READING        Philippians 2:1-11

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       Matthew 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.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

God loves us!  Completely and without limits God loves us.  God wants our salvation.  God is not a God who wants us to suffer for sin but instead God wants to save us from all sin.  What is our response?

The first reading today, from the Prophet Ezekiel, is so clear:  God loves us and never wants to judge us.  It is we ourselves who create problems but God is always ready to forgive.  For so many people in the past and even today, God is seen as a God who judges us and might condemn us.  This is an incredibly wrong image of God.  God only loves us!  If we are condemned, it is we ourselves who condemn ourselves.  God is always there, ready to forgive us and to draw us to Himself.  We must rethink our images of God.  Any image of God which includes any attitude toward us that is not completely love, is simply a wrong image of God.

Yes, in the Scriptures we heard of God being angry with us and we hear of God being upset with His people, but these are the images from the human side.  Instead, the great Prophets and the great authors of Scripture always come back to this one reality:  God loves us unconditionally.

That does not mean that God sees all our behavior as good.  Our behavior is often not good because we are subject to original sin and we all sin.  The question is whether we will accept God’s love and turn away from sin.  The question is whether we will accept as sin what God has revealed to us in Scripture as sin.  Today many try to rewrite the Scriptures so that there is no sin.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Philippians and is one of the most profound of passages in all of Scripture.  Saint Paul begins by asking us:  “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”  The example he gives, however, is that of Jesus, who humbles Himself completely for love of us.

Are we are to humble ourselves in order to love others?  Are we will to completely give up our lives in order to love others?  What is the measure of our love?  Do we love only to be loved?  Are we willing to follow Jesus and live as He did?

The Gospel of Matthew today is very short and to the point:  do we truly seek to do God’s will in our lives?  The Gospel gives us two examples:  the one son who say that he will not work but in the end does work.  The other son who says he will work but in the end does not.

To follow Jesus is to seek to do all that He asks of us.  No matter how many times we have said “no” to God, we still can change and seek God’s will and God forgives us our faults.  But if we are always saying good things and doing nothing, then we are not doing the will of God.

Today we stand in front of God.  Who are we?  Will we say “yes” to God and not do anything?  Will we say “no” to God and yet in the end at least try?  Let us walk in the way of the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip