[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Ezekiel 18:25-28/ Psalm 25/Phil 2:1-11/ Matthew 21:28-32
Theme: Pay lip service to God no more.
Last week, I reminded you that we must serve God with the right attitude; an attitude borne out of the fact that God owes us nothing. One of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century Christian is the apathy that has characterized our worship of God. It is a serious matter.
The first reading is a reminder that the God we serve is a God of Justice. Retribution is individual centred. Our inability to practice justice strains our relationship with God. Our very nature is justice because we have been created in the image and likeness of God. We are punished because we fail to reflect that image of God.
The first reading suggests that the Israelites are questioning God because He is just. God addresses them, “… When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it… again when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life” ( Ezekiel 18:26-27). God is unfair because he is generous to forgive and punish those who repent and those who have backslided respectively? Ridiculous, amazing.
Christians today are the worst offenders of this attitude. Instead of rejoicing when a brother or sister in our Church repents, we become envious. It is only those Christians who pay lip service to God who are jealous of those who worship God in spirit and truth. If the host of heaven will rejoice over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people, who are you to be jealous of God’s generous offer? God is not perturbed at all.
In last week’s gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that we are called at different times as far as our vocation is concerned. Even when we are found idling, Jesus says that it is never too late for anyone.
Today, he reminds us that our vocation calls for total obedience to the one who has called us. However, Jesus takes cognizance of our human imperfections; the fact that we are assailed by doubts and fears in our bid to respond to him.
The two sons in the gospel reading of today, therefore, represent the religious leaders and the religious outcasts who followed John’s call to repentance. Like the first son who disobeyed his father but later changed his mind and went to work as against the second son who said yes to his father but refused to do the work, we are admonished to stop paying lip service to God and back our words with action.
Whenever we fail to give God true worship, we should be humble enough to repent. Jesus assures us that he never abandons a repentant sinner. This was the problem of the Pharisees and the Scribes who rejected the preaching of John the Baptist as against the outcast who upon hearing John’s preaching repented.
Again, the gospel parable gives us a glimpse into the radical nature of the Kingdom of God. Although this parable may contain a judgment on Jewish religious leaders, Matthew intended a much wider application of its message, even to us. In this parable each one of us can recognize his or her own personal experience.
We ourselves can become blind to what God is doing in the world around us. Could the parable be speaking about those who seem to be very religious and subservient at the start, but in reality may never sufficiently probe the depths of God’s mercy to truly know the heart and mind of God? The parable is a lesson for those who claim to be Christian, but do not worship as Christians or live the Christian life; compared to those who come to Christ later but never claimed to be righteous.
Jesus gives equal opportunities for salvation for all as evidenced in the life of the religious leaders (Scribes and Pharisees) of his time and the tax collectors and prostitutes. The same is true for us today namely Priests, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers and the like. What are you waiting for?
Obedience to God’s word is paramount to our witnessing to Christ. Jesus obeyed in word and indeed even to the point of shedding his blood on the cross. Whereas in the first reading, obedience to God leads to life, in the second reading, Jesus’ obedience leads to death; a shameful death on the cross. But to prove to us that in suffering lies our victory, God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name. St. Paul, therefore, presents Jesus to us as the ‘Son’ par excellence.
The Psalmist presents God as steadfast in forgiving. This is the nature of God and so to be jealous of God’s steadfast love; of His justice is to deny your very existence. The Psalmist says, “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness sake, O Lord” (Psalm 25:7).
In sum, at the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Church has called for new evangelisation. This requires us all an authentic witness to faith. Our lip service has not yielded any fruit. If it has at all, it has made a mockery of Christianity.
The mission to the nations is incumbent upon the entire People of God. Evangelization will always contain as the foundation, centre and, at the same time, the summit of its dynamism- a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy. “The new evangelization,” according to John Paul II, “is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.”
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
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