Homily (2) 26th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Eze 18:25-28; Ps 25:4-9; Phil 2:1-11 and Matt 21:28-32
Our Faith Journey is Not Over!
In our society today, it is very common to blame others for our failures and past mistakes. Just as it is common to attribute our successes to others. This is why we have formed the concepts of individual and collective responsibilities. With collective responsibility we easily tend to see ourselves as victims, and blame the present on the past. Of course, such tendency is not new. When we look closely at the history of Israel, God's chosen people, it was there. Sin and suffering were blamed on the mistakes of their ancestors. Even in the time of Christ, you would recall the incidence of the healing of the blind man, in John 9, when the Disciples of Christ asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”(John 9:1-41). It is very easy for any of us to hold onto the past, to constantly blame the past on the present! Or to think that all hope is lost!
Today’s readings, beginning with the Prophet Ezekiel emphasis the hope, that is never lost! Our faith journey is not yet over. Every present moment of a Christian is important. Individual attitude, disposition, willingness, volition and humility to come back to God, in obedience, prayer and thankfulness are all important.
Ezekiel’s prophecy of individual responsibility becomes clear at a time when the chosen people had lost not only the monarchy, but the land and the temple. They found themselves in exile. Ezekiel’s contemporaries saw their lost and sufferings as a consequence, not of their sinfulness, but of their ancestors. They believed they were not responsible, but rather were victims. And in fact, they also thought that God was unfair to them.
Ezekiel challenges this erroneous mindset and argues that each person bears personal responsibility for his or her own conduct. Ezekiel, a fellow exiled, stresses that, “when someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness, he has committed and 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,” (Eze 18:25-28), the land shall be regained.For Ezekiel, in as much as hope is central God’s focus is on the present, and not mainly on the past. Nations and individual can be free from the guilt of the past, the lost glory could be restored, by turning to God with humility, today. The past sins must not prevent today’s repentance or change of heart.
This fits into Jesus parable about the two sons in today’s Matthean Gospel (Matt 21:28-32), as our Lord journeys to Jerusalem. In this parable, the first son says to his father, I will not work in the vineyard. But, later changes his mind to work in the vineyard; while the second son who promises to work in the vineyard, never did at all.
Any of us can be any of these two sons, and behave likewise, especially the first son, changing our minds to do the will of God, our father. Conversion is ongoing, onward not backward. It is a process. It is never too late, even for tax collectors, prostitute or for those who might find themselves in any bad past habit of sins.
Saint Augustine, and many other saints, who were once sinners but later became saints, are good models for us. Even Paul whose Letter to the Philippians we read today, in the second reading, was once a persecutor of the faith, before he became a promoter of the Good news of Christ to the Gentiles.
In that second reading, Paul reminds the Philippians, of course, all of us the deeds and the attitude of Christ that we are called to imitate, irrespective of our past mistakes. Love, mercy, selflessness, compassion, hospitality, and humility should be our catchwords. Paul reminds us that, Christ, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God. Rather, he humbled himself. He freely became obedient onto the cross, through his faith, and hope preaching on the street of Jerusalem.
Our nations, our continents, our families, each of us, individually can always step back, and look at our past mistakes and even accomplishments. Our Christian journey is like a two side coin. On one side, even though we have been baptized and received various sacraments in the past, it is our responsibility to actively nuture those promises we made on those occasions, till the end. Even though we have achieved a lot in faith, we don’t one to backslide. We want to keep the faith till the end! And on the other side, Christ frees us from the sins of the past if we are willing to say yes, and turn to him, today. Or be able to personally pray with the psalmist, “your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths”(Ps 25). Every present moment is a moment of decision, and our faith journey is not yet over!