• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"He changed his mind and went. Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of Heaven before you."

Entrance Antiphon: Dn 3:31, 29, 30, 43, 42 —“All that You have done to us, O Lord, You have done with true judgment, for we have sinned against You, and not obeyed Your commandments. But give glory to Your name and deal with us according to the bounty of Your mercy..”

First Reading: Ez 18:25-28 — “By turning from wickedness, a wicked person shall preserve his life.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — “Remember Your mercies, O Lord.”

Second Reading: Phil 2:1-11 — “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”

Alleluia: Jn 10:27 — Alleluia, alleluia. “My sheep hear My voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow Me.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mt 21:28-32 —“He changed his mind and went. Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 119(118); 49-50 — “Remember Your word to Your servant, O Lord, by which You have given me hope. This is my comfort when I am brought low.”

There is a story I heard about an old Cherokee Indian who was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said. “It is a fierce fight between two wolves. One is evil … that wolf is anger, envy, regret, greed, pride, selfishness, resentment and deceit. The other one is good … that wolf is compassion, humility, patience, love, forgiveness, peace, generosity, kindness and truth. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.” The grandson was wide-eyed. He thought a moment then asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

Moral of the story … Our lives are all about choices. From our earliest years, our choices frame our future. Today it could have been to hit the snooze a couple more times instead of starting out the day on time. For some, it might have been go to soccer or football or field hockey rather than coming to church. If you think about all of the choices you make, some of those choices can bring either life or death.

In the First Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, God says that His will for us is that we have life. However, we can make choices that lead to death. Evil can cause more kinds of loss than physical death. Some examples are: death of a relationship from selfishness, holding grudges, pride and greed … poor health from addictions and immorality … or the end of inner peace through bitterness, jealousy and anger. While on the flipside, goodness can add lead to abundant life here and hereafter.

In his book, With God in Russia, the Jesuit, Fr. Walter Ciszek, tells of being held as a political prisoner, accused of being a Vatican Spy, in Russia between 1939 and 1962. During his 23 years in various prisons in Russia, Ciszek could have become very bitter and very angry. Despite extreme deprivation and degradation, he said, “I still had the most important freedom of all…. That was the freedom to choose what kind of person I wanted to be.” He continued to be a man of faith and a man of service to those around him. He could have chosen to live differently. But he didn’t. Despite our life situations, we all have that freedom. Goodness produces the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul tells us how to feed the good wolf: Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus has. Christ was self-emptying. Though He was God, He stripped Himself of His godliness to embrace humanity. Just how He did this is a mystery. Jesus did not cease to be God, but He was, at the same time, “a man like us in all things but sin.” No person can match that selflessness. It is by embracing our humanity, and living each day as a gift from God that we become more and more like God.

We know from the Gospel readings we hear over and over again that Christ was humble. When He came to earth, He could have come down and become anyone or anything He wanted. He did not come as a person of wealth or position. Jesus came as a servant … one who washed the feet of His disciples … one who had no home of His own … one who had no coins in His pockets. He was the Good Shepherd who was also the slain unblemished Lamb of God.

Christ was obedient. For Jesus, knowing the will of the Father meant boldly carrying out the Father’s will regardless of the cost. That faithful obedience led Him to conflict with Jewish leaders and crucifixion. Jesus was obedient even when it meant breaking the letter of the law in order to uphold the letter of the law. His ultimate concern was for others He healed on the Sabbath and He touched the dead, bringing them back to life. Both of those acts were unheard of in Jesus’ day ... working on the Sabbath or touching the dead ... the unclean. We put on the mind of Christ when we use His qualities as our model.

Our actions need to match our words. The Gospel shows that we cannot profess one thing and then do another if we want to “enter the kingdom.” Words without actions are useless. The first son said he wouldn't do as the Father asked, but changed his mind and went out into the vineyard to work. The second son readily agreed to do his father's will, but in actuality never did. In the Gospel, Jesus convicted the chief priests and the elders for their double standards … for their hypocrisy. When we talk the God talk without walking the God walk, we become hypocrites, too. It is the actions that follow our words that prove our sincerity.

Jesus said that “unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will not have life in you.” We came today because we want to feed on Christ in His Word during the Liturgy of the Word and in Communion during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Cherokee chief, said our choices in life depend on the wolf we feed … evil or goodness. When you are present to listen to the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word and as you approach the altar to receive Communion in a little while, please remember and consider that when you are fully and completely present for both, you are filling your hearts and minds with goodness and love itself.

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