September 28, 2008

ORDINARY 26 (A)

Which of the two did his fatherís will? Ė Mt. 21: 31

Jesus is using the classic ploy of the prophet: he tells a story & asks his listeners to make a judgment, to evaluate the characters in the story. The religious leaders are usually quick to respond for they are people with firm opinions & unyielding judgments. What they do not know is that by judging the people in the story they are judging themselves. They are more involved than they think.

They, like us, value action over words. As the old saying goes, ďActions speak louder than words.Ē Mere lip service to the Father is not following His will, so it is the first son who did the will of the Father. But this son changed his mind. If they endorse doing over saying, they also have to endorse the change of mind that brought the first son to obedient action. It is this ability to change oneís mind that our Lord wants to emphasize. Both He & John the Baptist stressed that a change of mind is needed to enter the kingdom of God .

When tax collectors & sinners heard John, they repented, i.e., they changed their minds & began to live in a new way. Even though they knew that John was righteous, the chief priest & elders did not change their minds. Something kept then from believing in John, possibly Johnís insistence that they had to think in a new way. The problem is profound; their recalcitrance is deep.

Their endorsement of the first son is a judgment on themselves for they are the second son. Their real failure is that they cannot change their mind. They say they are doing Godís will, but they do not carry out what they say. They think that the Law gives them a clear picture of God & they know it all. However, when it comes to knowledge of God & Godís actions, the spiritual traditions have tried to balance knowing & not knowing. The human mind can discern divine activity but it cannot exhaustively capture it. We have to be ready for the unexpected.

All of which brings me to Stewardship Commitment Day. It would be an understatement to say that we live in uncertain times. The threat of terrorism pales in comparison to the possibility of economic collapse that confronts us. If that happens, we will have done to ourselves what Osama bin Laden could not. Be that as it may, we cannot help but worry about the future, both personal & corporate. This is where our faith comes in: for those who have it, God is the only sure thing in the universe.

Unlike some folks I know, we as a parish have to stay within our budget, be it large or small; & the size of it is determined by you. We all have only so much time & money to spend. How we spend them depends upon our priorities. What is really important to us? It is my hope that the beginning of my tenure here can mark a new & hopefully better future for this parish. It has been said that prosperity is our greatest enemy. If so, economic hardship could well present us with a great spiritual opportunity for growth. In that event, we will all need Godís help & guidance more than ever. AMEN!