A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
“Thus says the Lord: You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair.’” Many of the Israelites felt that the Babylonian Exile was not fair. God had not protected them. Ezekiel wanted them to know the truth: “Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is not fair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”
Before, during, and after the Babylonian Exile, numerous prophets tried to warn the people to turn away from their sinfulness and lack of faith. This is one of those numerous warnings. Here, Ezekiel wanted to make sure that the people knew they had another choice, to turn away from wickedness. We have the same choice many times throughout our lives. We always have another choice, another chance, no matter how far off the path we may have wandered.
(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14)
“Remember your mercies, O Lord.” Pope Francis has spoken and written repeatedly about God’s unbounded mercy for each of us. In the midst of our several societal challenges, have you sought God’s mercy, for yourself and your family but also for our country and our world? We all need God’s merciful healing power.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
This passage is one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in the Christian Bible.
“Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selflessness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out for his own interests, but also for those of others.
“Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
Jesus is talking to the “chief priests and elders.” These were the leaders, the supposedly wise and holiest people. He tells them a parable of two sons whose father asks them to go out and work in their vineyard. The first says, “I will not,” but afterwards changed his mind and went. The other son said, “Yes sir,” but didn’t go. Jesus asks: “Which of the two did his father’s will?” The priests and elders answer, “The first.” “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.’”
The chief priests and elders were among the enemies of Jesus because he threatened their power and prestige. Tax collectors and prostitutes were at the bottom of society and yet, they “got” Jesus. They saw their own sinfulness and turned instead to Jesus. Throughout history, many, if not most of the rich and powerful did not truly “get” Jesus and follow him. Often, the people we might think of as unworthy because of their position in society are those who will enter the kingdom of God first. We should never “look down” on them but rather “look up” with them.
Image:”Two Sons” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.