Jesus is the firstborn from among those who do what is true and come to the light, so that there is no doubt that their works are just.
No doubt, we have to love in deed and truth. The second son in the parable says “yes,” but he does not do what the father asks. No work backs up his word. The first son, for his part, says “no.” But he changes his mind and does what the father wants.
What counts before God, yes, is that we do what he wants, it is not what we say to him. And just in case the chief priests and the elders think that Jesus does not mean them, he says: “Truly I tell you publicans and harlots are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
But does Jesus’ warning to the “professionals” on Jewish worship have to do with Christians? Yes, it seems, if we bear in mind that he tells his disciple: “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
And he says this to them after their receiving the promise that they will inherit eternal life. It seems, then, that there is the warning, too, that they can end up last. For what happens to Jewish religious leaders can also happen to us who follow Jesus.
And these leaders do not do what they say. Also, they break God’s command for the sake of their tradition. They honor him with just their lips. And they do not care much about what counts most in the law: justice, mercy, faith.
Doubt how we follow Jesus
We who follow Jesus can end up, yes, as the religious leaders of the Jews. Hence, it does us good to doubt how we follow him. We say we are his, but do we feel, think and act as he? Do we not grasp God’s gifts to boast of them, as if he owed them to us for our efforts? Does not this make us think we are better than others, rather than take others to be better than us?
And, of course, it takes little to go from thinking we are better than others to belittling them. Soon, we go away from them and turn them over to oblivion, to the outskirts. Also, since we think we are better and more just, we then get to think that we do not have to repent. To know that we do not do what we say no longer gives us remorse. And since we trust in our justice, it is harder for us to admit that we are of little worth (see Ez 16). And that we turn harlots time and again. It gets harder for us, too, as for the priest and the Levite, to grasp what it means “to leave God for God” (SV.EN IX:252).
But, yes, we have much to repent for. For we turn our backs on what God wants for us. And he wants us to live as good brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of just one Father. And that we care for one another and work, as Jesus, to the point of giving our bodies up and shedding our blood. So that we all may have peace and do what is right and just,and respect one another. And that the Father’s will is thus done on earth as in heaven.
Lord Jesus, grant that we examine ourselves time and again, and doubt the way we worship the Father, so that we may not just say to you, “Lord, Lord,” but do rather what the Father wants. Make us, whom you have called, teem with works of faith, hope and love.
1 October 2023
26th Sunday in O.T. (A)
Ez 18, 25-28; Phil 2, 1-11; Mt 21, 28-32