Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Gunther
There is a story about a man being tailgated by a stressed-out woman on a busy street. Suddenly the traffic light turned yellow just in front of him. The man stopped at the crosswalk even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating though the intersection. The tailgating woman hit the roof and then hit the horn screaming in frustration that she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still ranting, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer. The officer ordered her out of the car and cuffed her hands. After reviewing her driver’s license and vehicle ownership card, he said … “Oh I’m sorry for this mistake. You see I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the “Choose Life” license plate holder the “What Would Jesus Do” bumper sticker and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”
There is kind of a parallel between this story and the parable of the two sons in today’s Gospel reading. It appears that the woman is just like the second son. She say’s “yes” with her bumper stickers but does not act out on her “yes” messages.
Thank Goodness that it’s never too late to reverse our thoughts and words and finally act on the will of the Father.
Jesus teaches us that those who don’t profess faith but live it … as if they did, have a better shot at going into the Kingdom of God then those religious leaders who professed faith but did not act on it. In other words, it is like the old saying … “Action speaks louder than words”.
Jesus did say that the “tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” We hear the words of Jesus and think “I’m certainly not like the chief priests and elders who are so hard of heart and if tax collectors and prostitutes are getting in then surely, I’m going to get in because I’m not nearly as bad as they are!”
But isn’t that where we can be the hardest of heart? As we hear this Gospel reading where is our love being directed? Probably not to helping the elders and chief priests change their hardened ways and certainly not in rejoicing that the tax collectors and prostitutes have changed their sinful ways. No … our hearts may be more directed in self-congratulation because we think we are better than them? In this teaching Christ shows us that we too may have some hardness of heart that needs to be removed.
Jesus makes the point that the kingdom of God is open to all who wish to receive His grace including those whom the religious leaders would have considered unworthy. He insists that even and especially those who have spent most of their lives pursuing other goals like pleasure like power like status or wealth are welcome in the vineyard and also belong in the kingdom.
You know it is never too late to change our hearts and minds. Jesus uses this common human trait to condemn the chief priests and elders for their failure to accept the Kingdom of God. He compares them to the son who agreed to do the father’s will but then did not.
The other son is compared to the tax collectors and prostitutes who repented of their ways and came to believe in God. It is harsh judgement; but it points out both the arrogance of the religious leaders at that time and the availability of God’s mercy. God gives us every opportunity to accept the invitation to be disciples … to be his servants.
Today’s Gospel asks us to reflect on our discipleship. Who are we and how do we act as baptized disciples of Jesus? In examining how we live; we can consider the extent we act on Christ’s teachings. Are we individuals caring only about ourselves and our relationship with God or are we Christians caring also about others and their relationship with God?
You know it’s possible to attend Mass and to pray daily and still ignore the will of God in our lives. Being a Christian is not nearly as much about words as it is about actions. This parable tells us that God’s arms are always open to receive the repentant sinner. The son who does what his father asked of him is welcomed as if he had never refused. It is never too late to mend but it takes deeds not words.
Some Christians can be like the second son. As a child they say “certainly I will go and work in your vineyard, Lord I will live my life as a real Christian.” But as an adult they may forget what it means to be a Christian. They think hey “I went to a Catholic school” or “I was an altar server as a kid.” Hence that makes me a Christian. But their adult lives may have become empty of a real sense of Christian living and they might not realize it. An example may be a business person who is totally focused only on the success of their business. Or those who are comfortable and satisfied with how things are and do not feel the need to interrupt it with God in their daily lives. For those people faith is mostly intellectual. They don’t realize they are not doing the Father’s will.
Other Christians can be like the first son. As a young person they moved away from practicing their faith and for various reasons went their own way. But now as an adult with children they may be more inclined to reexamine their lifestyle and begin again to realize that faith in God is essential for their own living and for raising their children. Their rebellion or search for meaning as a young person they now reconsider in a more adult and responsible framework. They may now see that a Christian faith life fills that void, that longing for Christ in their lives.
The Gospel message reassures us that no matter what we did in the past, now we can strive to be like the first son and respond to God our Father by doing His will.
My friends we are his hands and his feet. He needs us to continue his work on earth.
I’d like to close by quoting St. Teresa of Avila … "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world."
Perhaps we can all be on the lookout this week … of where we may be of service to others.
May God bless you.