Homily for 27 September 2020
Ezekiel 18: 25 – 28. Philippians 2 : 1- 11. Matthew 21: 28-32
Most of us probably grew up with some proverbs from our parents or teachers that gave us some kernel of truth to hold on to. My Father always used Knowledge is Power.
Jesus used a few of these himself. And in today’s gospel, the parable speaks of the maxim: Actions speak louder than words. The first son is in touch with his feelings and just doesn’t want to do it today. But he thinks about it and knows he needs to. He’s honest and so is able to get to the right action. The second Son really is the one we are concerned about. He looks good, says all the right things but he doesn’t do them. The reason could be multiple. Just selfish, has issues with his Father, a classic rebellious son, or he’s hiding something. Only God knows the truth.
What is the issue? Is the question for all of us? How is our behavior? What may hold you back from this follow through and honesty about your responsibilities? About living your life well. As Pastor for many years, I had an interesting experience with one of my associate priests in the parish. When he first came for the interview, it went very well, he said all the right things. We shared a common vision of parish life and ministry and he was a nice man. So, I took him as my associate. But after a couple of months, I had to have this challenging talk with him because he couldn’t do any of it. I had to help him find out what was holding him back. I sent him to counseling to begin to heal his woundedness that was keeping him back from living out what he wanted to do. But just couldn’t do. Of course, there can be many reasons for the behavior we see like this.
But what Jesus is teaching today touches our life. When we accept Jesus, we can be like the first son, repent and do what is expected. We look great, living this unique life of monkhood. But how much is the heart where we say we are in our reality? It’s the hidden challenge of our life. And really any life. But looking at monastic life it is often the challenge of
needs not fulfilled. So, I think we can ask the question?
How much is this all about you? What you want, what you expect, your way. Christian life and especially monastic life calls us to a “Letting go of ourselves.” And living in obedience to God alone. The maxim for the Christian is “It’s not about me.” There’s no other way forward with any integrity. It’s our only hope for a meaningful monastic life. And any wholeness in our life wherever we are. How do we get to that inner healing, that inner freedom to know ourselves and act from the right place and from the honest assessment of who we are and what we are about in our lives? We must continue to mature, and that never lets up, no matter how old you are.
We see this same challenge all too often in Government leaders; how many are for the power and money and not for the purpose of their positions: helping the people first. We see this also in the Church – all kinds of scandals come out of this issue. Priests and religious not living out who they say they are. And never doing anything about resolving their issues. If it’s about you, it never works.
But there is a way forward. And Ezekiel calls us to remember God’s ways. And God’s words to us: “If he turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” The psalm response is our prayer to. “Remember your mercies Lord”.
We know that God is never fooled; God sees the heart . For us today, we are invited to take note of the message. What hope we have in the Lord? There’s good news here from Jesus. Jesus says I came for sinners, that’s us, because sinners know they need forgiveness, reconciliation and healing and new life – another chance. I’m grateful for the many chances I’ve had to start over and get to the truth of what God wants of me and for me.
What is so striking here, is that this parable and teaching is during Jesus’ last week of his public ministry. Giving everyone a second chance to accept his message of God’s love and forgiveness. What we see is Jesus to the very end seeking to invite people to his life and love. To truly know the God he knows. We have the opportunity to not only hear his word and be renewed but also to take on the very mind of Christ. Totally dependent on God and not ashamed to be identified with sinners and outcasts. To have the humility to be poor and needy and seek God. This kind of honesty changes everything, frees us up to receive God’s forgiveness, to live in truth. Enzo Bianchi names it all so well. Here is what he says. “Knowing ourselves requires attention and inner vigilance, which is the ability to concentrate and to listen to silence that, with the help of solitude, helps us to discover what is essential. With time we learn to inhabit our inner life , and we allow our inner truth to reveal itself to us. At this point, self-knowledge also means recognizing our limitations and what is negative and incomplete in us – in other words, the aspects of ourselves we usually tend to repress so that we will not have to confront them. Our knowledge of our poverty, together with our knowledge of God can then become an experience of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.”
All of this brings us to the very foundations of our monastic Rule: the 12 steps of humility. Especially step 2 of humility – the one who does the will of God and does not do his own will nor seeks pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires. And step 3 – the monk submits to obedience for the love of God, like the Lord, even to death.
Practicing these steps of humility will get us to live out our life of faith right where we are called, with a deeper love of God in community and this sets up all possibilities of our spiritual journey, which brings us to the fullness of life in God for the church and the world.
We are called to be one with all people and that does something very profound for us in our monastic life and in our prayer. We are one in the human experience of need and desire for love and belonging, for family and for wellbeing, and for a future. We are one with all people in the deepest way because we seek God who makes us one.
There we can, if we live the truth of Christ as we have promised by our monastic lives and by our lives of faith, give people hope and truly be that prophetic witness of Christ and his Gospel.