Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’ (Matthew 21:28-32)
The gospel message, indeed the story of the Bible, is a story of becoming. There is not one day that we are 'the same' as before. It seems to me that when I live in the illusion that the world will remain 'the same' I close myself off to the creativity of relationship and to the possibilities of forgiveness, compassion, hope and love. I close my heart off to life, to everything that God is calling and creating me to become. In choosing to act in ways that close off the possibility of change and becoming, I choose death.
This choice of acting in ways that bring death affects not only me, but also the community I am a part of and connected to. My relationships with people, plants, animals and the earth; in fact, everything! The reading from Ezekiel names this choice in terms of sin, and sin as its own punishment. Of the one who sins Ezekiel says, "he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed." (cf. Ezk 18:27).
In this Sunday's gospel, Jesus responds in parable to the temple elders and chief priests who confront him about the message he brings in word and action. The message that, even if we have chosen death, God eternally offers us the relationship of life, and the opportunity of changing our minds and becoming what God calls and creates us to be. Even in the midst of our choice of death, God is waiting with us to respond to life, as the way of Jesus shows us. Will the temple elders and chief priests hear this message? Will we?
This is our call: to hear the way of life that Jesus invites us to follow, to live it, and to continue becoming a person and a community transformed and united in the love of God. A person and a community that is a sign of this love that reaches into our depths and reaches out welcoming all who are overshadowed by injustice, sickness and death. By our action, we continue on the way of becoming the loved, the lovers and the beloved of God.
Matthew Tonini, OCarm.
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