September 27, 2020

Deacon Jim Homily

The scripture readings for today offer an invitation to reflect on our call to conversion; which for most of us is rarely a one-time event, but rather an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us.  This conversion is a change of mind as well as a change of heart made evident in our actions.  Ultimately, conversion leads us to adopt Christ’s attitude of humble service.  At Home With the Word

From the fall of our first parents (Adam and Eve) to the most recent family argument, many have held onto a philosophy when it comes to relationships: make sure you get your way, no matter what.

How different is the way of the Lord!  Take today’s second reading.  St. Paul tells us that Jesus didn’t demand that we submit to him.  Instead, he submitted to us.  He who is Lord of all took “the form of a slave,” pouring himself out in miracles of healing and deliverance.  He who is the wisdom of God patiently taught the way of forgiveness and holiness.  And he who is pure and undefiled stooped to wash the feet of his apostles.

And in his final act of submission, he offered no resistance when we mocked him, beat him, and crucified him.  Not because he was weak, but because he was strong.  Not because he had lost, but because he knew that this was the way to win.  And God proved him right.  Because Jesus chose humility over pride and service over force, his Father raised him up and exalted him as Lord.

Jesus didn’t come to win an argument; he came to win our hearts.  By humbling himself like this, he showed that his love is real, solid, and eternal.  Now he asks us to follow his example.  Just as he came not to be served but to serve, he asks us to serve each other.  He asks us to win each other’s hearts rather than try to break each other’s wills.

This isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it means caring for a fussy in-law, cooperating with an unhappy coworker, or cleaning your teenager’s bedroom.  Neither is it always successful.  There’s no guarantee that we will win the other person’s heart.  But we will be pleasing Jesus, and that is its own reward.  Word Among Us Reflection

Our conversion or capacity to change our minds leaves us open to harm and to hope; harm when we choose to abandon our integrity and to commit sin, hope when we choose to renounce sin and follow the way Jesus taught us.

The parable in today’s Gospel shows us the goodness of a humble change of mind.  The first son “thought better of his decision.”  He was open to change, to better thoughts.  The second son was set and closed.  The ability to change one’s mind is essential to all healthy relationships.  A mind that is closed, whether from pride or stubbornness, tends to destroy all relationships – for example, when we refuse to admit a mistake, when we are unwilling to apologize and change our ways, when we persist in prejudice against a person or group, when we think we know it all.

What kind of future are we preparing for?  Jesus encourages us to think – to think about the consequences of our choices, especially the choices and decisions that will count not just for now but for eternity as well.  The choices we make now will affect and shape our future, both our future on earth as well as in the life of the age to come.

Jesus tells a parable of two imperfect sons to illustrate the way of God's kingdom.  The father abundantly provided for his sons food, lodging, and everything they needed.  Everything the father had belonged to them as well.  The father also rewarded his sons with excellent work in his own vineyard.  He expected them to show him gratitude, loyalty, and honor by doing their fair share of the daily work.

The "rebellious" son told his father to his face that he would not work for him.  But afterwards he changed his mind and did what his father commanded him.  The "other" son said he would work for his father, but didn't follow through.  He sought his own pleasure, contrary to his father's will.  Who was really the good son?  Both sons disobeyed their father - but one repented and then did what the father told him.  Jesus makes his point clear - Good intentions are not enough.  And promises don't count unless they are followed by action.  Laudate Reflection

This parable reinforces Jesus’ insistence that words alone do not prove that one is a disciple.  They must be accompanied by action.  The first son in this parable can be compared to the tax collectors and prostitutes; the stereotypical sinners of Jesus’s day.  These sinners “did not necessarily want to” live righteously – but changed their minds and behavior when they heard the words of John the Baptist.

The second son can be compared to the religious leaders to whom Jesus addresses this parable.  They agree to go work for God but do not.  They talk about divine demands and ways – but do not live by them because they are inconvenient and require them to change how they spend their time.  Jesus warns that those whom they feel superior to – are preceding them into God’s Kingdom.  Jesus’ parable is open-ended.  It challenges those that hear it to examine whose “will” shapes their daily lives.  Workbook for Lectors

God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our speech and by our actions that we respect His “will” and do it.  God offers each one of us the greatest treasure possible – unending peace, joy, and friendship with him in his everlasting kingdom.  We can lose that treasure if we refuse the grace – the free gift of God's blessing and strength – which the Lord Jesus has won for us through his victory on the cross.  The Lord Jesus fills us with the gift of the Holy Spirit who works in and through us for the glory of God.  Do you seek to please God and respect his will and loving plan for your life?  Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the peace, joy, and righteousness of God's kingdom.  Laudate Reflection

So, how does this all apply to us today?  Every day we have choices to make and ultimately what we choose is going to define how it impacts our lives, the people around us and our relationship with God.  Do we have to be perfect?  Absolutely not.  Should we be repentant when we stray from the way God wants us to act and how He wants us to respond to those around us?  Absolutely.

Our call to conversion is not always easy – sometimes we need help along the way.  If it has been a long time, since you have gone to confession, what is holding you back?  Why not take advantage of this wonderful sacrament and receive forgiveness for your sins, restore your relationship with God and those people you may have hurt?  Reciting this prayer each day and especially as you prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation might be a good way to get started – Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

We are all called to conversion.  It would be great if none of us sinned any more – but God gave each of us Free Will and sometimes we don’t use His gift wisely.  It is through changing one’s mind and actions that we will grow in our relationship with God.  Let’s get started today – get rid of all those bad feelings and guilt that could be weighing us down and preventing us from becoming the best version of ourselves.  Afterall, it is what God created us for.

Remember, God loves us even when we sin and God calls us to conversion and a renewed relationship with Him.  God allows do-overs in life for the truly repentant ones.

Saints are not canonized because they said yes to God and never wavered.  Saints are canonized because they often first said no to God, but later changed their hearts.

And we were all created to be saints.

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