Sunday Sermon for October 1, 2017, the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32
In the second reading today St. Paul says we are to have in us the same attitude as Christ. As we continue through the reading we can see the attitude of Christ is marked by humility, obedience, and charity. This essentially repeats what St. Paul said earlier calling us to do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory, to humble ourselves and to seek the interests of others.
Sadly, pride, selfishness, and doing only what I want to do have become the norm in our society. The call to follow Christ has always been a radical call and it has always required Christians to be different from the rest of society, but I am not sure if it has ever been more contrary to the norms of society than today. Certainly there have been difficult times in the past when God raised up Saints up to be a beacon in the societal darkness around them. God is calling us to be beacons of light in our world today.
If you are like most people, you will quickly recognize your attitude is not or has not always been like that of Christ. This is where the grace and mercy of God come in. We all know the mercy of Jesus, but the first reading shows the mercy of God at work many years before our Lord came into the world. This only makes sense since God cannot change and, we recall, that when He revealed His Holy Name to Moses, He added “merciful and gracious” to reveal to us His very essence.
In the first reading we hear about the people who think God’s way is unfair because He says if someone turns from a life of virtue to a life of iniquity, that person will die in their sin. On the other hand, if a person turns from a life of iniquity to a life of virtue, that person will live. In our humanness we want to say this is unfair: why forget what happened earlier in life? When God judges us He takes into account the whole of our life, but if we have rejected the Lord and His ways, and we die with that disposition, then we will have that disposition for eternity. However, if we turn from sin to love and serve the Lord until we die, then that will be our disposition for eternity.
So, we see God’s way is not unfair at all; He is simply respecting our free will and allowing us to choose how and where we will spend our afterlife. St. Peter reminds us that God’s patience is directed toward salvation. He wants as many saved as possible, so He is very patient with us as we blunder and flounder and wander through life. He is always holding the truth out to us, giving us the opportunity to turn from the lies of the vile creature and the emptiness of sin to the fullness of truth and the fullness of life.
On the day we were baptized we promised to reject Satan and all of his nonsense; we professed Faith in the Holy Trinity and in the teachings of the Church. Like the parable in the Gospel today, most of us have said we will go to work in the Lord’s vineyard, but then fail to follow through. At the same time, there are others who have been saying “no” to God for years, but then have a conversion and go to work for Lord’s glory.
If we size up our lives and realize we would be found wanting if we were weighed on the scales of God’s justice, there is still hope. The grace and mercy of God we were just discussing are still being offered to us. We still have time to be like the son in the Gospel who said “no” to his father, but then repented and went to work in the vineyard. We can still be like the person in the first reading who turned from a life of iniquity to live a life of virtue.
However, as we see in the second reading, this is more than just external actions. St. Paul said we need to have the attitude of Christ. We need to take on His interior dispositions. If we have the attitude of Christ, we will live a life of virtue. Our actions will flow from the heart and be done with a motive of charity and humility, in obedience to God. Our society does not recognize the dignity of this kind of life because it does not recognize Christ. The world is enveloped in the darkness of sin, untruth, and death; Jesus is virtue, truth, and life. It is time to put off the attitudes of the world and put on the attitude of Christ!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.