Thus says the LORD: You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!" Hear now,
house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, 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, he 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.
Brothers and sisters, if there is therefore any exhortation in Christ,
if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender
mercies and compassion, make my joy full, by being like-minded, having
the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through
rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better
than himself; each of you not just looking to his own things, but each
of you also to the things of others.
Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing
in the form of God, didn't consider it robbery to be equal with God, but
emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness
of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient
to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted
him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name
of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and
those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, "But what
do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, 'Son,
go work today in my vineyard.' He answered, 'I will not,' but afterward
he changed his mind, and went. He came to the second, and said the same
thing. He answered, 'I go, sir,' but he didn't go. Which of the two did
the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus
said to them, "Most assuredly I tell you that the tax collectors and the
prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came
to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn't believe him, but the
tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. When you saw it, you didn't
even repent afterward, that you might believe him."
longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop
Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic
of the sanctions against Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this
work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible
and are available as part of the public domain.
For your convenience, the
Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the
Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright ©
1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.,
may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic
|For the last few
Sundays we have been following Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem.
And along the way he has been teaching the disciples and us various things.
We almost have to smile
when we listen to how Jesus interacts with the religious teachers--the
authorities of the temple--when they are challenging him. “Why did you
do those things?” Just before that, Jesus had driven out the money
changers and those who were exploiting the poor. Jesus so easily traps
But as we listen to this
and probe the meaning of today’s scriptures, it’s not really something
to smile about. Jesus is teaching us something very, very important. Basically
it comes down to this. It’s not much good to go through the motions of
being religious, of worshiping God or saying I’m a follower of Jesus, if
you don’t act on it.
The parable is so simple,
isn’t it? The father says to the two boys, “Go into my vineyard and work.”
And one says, “I won’t do it,” but later repents. And the other says,
“I’ll go,” and puts on a good appearance, but doesn’t do it.
And Jesus made a special
point to those religious leaders, “You knew John was a prophet and yet
you won’t proclaim it and you wouldn’t follow him.” The sinners,
the people they look down upon, tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes,
they went to John and they repented. They said, "No," to God, but
then they thought it through and they changed. These religious leaders
supposedly had said, "Yes," to God, but they refused to change, they refused
to do penance, to follow John, and then subsequently to follow Jesus.
And as we listen to that
parable, I think it’s important to notice how it is told by Jesus.
It’s very short and very simple. But he tells about the two boys, one that
went and the other that didn’t. And you might wonder, “What will the father
do now? What happened to the boy who lied?” But Jesus doesn’t
go any further in the story. He simply asks a question, “Which of
them did the will of the father?” And those words are very important
for Jesus. Throughout his life, it was always his goal to do the
will of the father, of God. He told his disciples one time when they
were concerned that he hadn’t had anything to eat he said, “My food is
to do the will of the one who sent me.”
At the end of the Sermon
on the Mount, after he had laid out his teaching about how we transform
the world, he pointed out, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will
enter the reign of God, but those who do the will of God.”
In his own life, he struggled
to be able to do God’s will. You remember that at the beginning of his
public life he was in the desert being tempted. And at the first temptation,
when the devil wanted him to change stones into bread he says, “No, I won’t
do that just to put on a display, to be a wonderworker. It’s more
important to nourish yourself not just with bread, but with every word
that comes from the mouth of God.” It’s more important to the will
of the father.
In John’s gospel, in
the twelfth chapter, we have an incident where Jesus is thinking about
his death and the horror that that will be; the suffering, the degradation,
the rejection that all of that is. And he says, “Will I ask God to
take this away from me?” He is in great anguish, but then he says,
“No, I’ve come to do the will of God.” This is why I have come, so
therefore I will accept it.
We’re more accustomed
to think of that struggle of Jesus to do the will of the Father when we
meditate on the agony in the garden when Jesus prayed, “Father, take this
chalice away from me.” But then, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
So it was a struggle
throughout the life of Jesus always to follow faithfully, totally, the
will of the father. And, of course, that is what Jesus asks of us,
“Will you do the will of the father? Will you go out symbolically into
the vineyard, into the world, and do God’s will? Or will you only say that
you will and not do it?” That is what the parable suggests to us; that
very often we might say it, but then not do it.
To do the will of God
is of course very challenging. In the second lesson today, where St. Paul,
writing to his favorite community, really urging them to become a Christian
community which fully reflects the way of Jesus, says to them, “Have this
mind in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Have the mind, the thinking, the
attitude, the heart, the whole way of Jesus. And then he describes
what that means. We have to listen to that. “Who, though he
was God, he did not deem equality with God something to be clung to; but
he emptied himself, became fully human, one like us in every way except
sin.” And he allowed himself to be tortured and put to death in order
to manifest the extraordinary, unconditional, unlimited love of God.
We say in our Eucharist
prayer: Before Jesus gave himself over to death, before he stretched
out his arms in the sign of that covenant of God’s love, he celebrated
the last supper with his disciples. But Jesus’ death was this extraordinary
manifestation of God’s unlimited love, of God’s total forgiveness.
Jesus emptied himself,
entered into death, even the ignominious death of the cross, in order to
show us the will of the father. The will of the father -- that love
changes everything, that love can transform our world. That’s what
Jesus was teaching us by emptying himself, making himself one with the
poorest not with the most powerful; one with those who love and not with
those who hate; one with those who are ready to let themselves be a sign
of God’s goodness and God’s love for every person.
Have this mind in you
which was in Christ Jesus. That’s what it means to do the will of
And are we ready to really
do it or are we only prepared to say that we will do it?
That’s the really important
question today and it’s a question that faces us within the context of
what is happening in our nation and in our world. We say that we’re
a religious country. In fact, more than 80 percent of the people
in the United States say they are Christian and that they are ready to
follow the way of Jesus. But then, in fact, we have to ask ourselves,
“Are these only words or will we do it?” It’s not enough to say,
“Lord, lord.” That won’t do it. You have to do the will of the father,
carry it out.
We need to reflect on
the current circumstances where our leaders in this country are taking
us into war. It’s a war that almost every religious body, every religious
teaching authority, have said, “This is not a morally acceptable war.”
There have been statements from the Episcopal leadership, the African Methodist
Episcopal Church, the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic bishops.
Every religious group almost without exception has said, “This war could
not be justified. If any war could be, this one could not be.”
And yet our president moves us forward to war.
Now if we are going to
do the will of God, do the will of the Father, and if it’s so clear that
this war is wrong, will we stand up and say, “No,” or will we just go along?
Will we try with every ounce of energy we have to stop what is happening,
or will we just float along and let it happen? I think that’s
really the challenge to all of us today: Are we just saying we’re Christian
or are we going to be followers of Jesus and act on what that means to
be a follower of Jesus, who refused to use power and might and so on to
change the world. He taught us that it was only through love that
you can change the world.
It’s a hard teaching
that Jesus gives to us and we have to be very careful that we don’t say,
“Yes, I’ll be a Christian,” and then not be. Yes, perhaps we have failed
in the past, but now is the time to say, “I will go into the field, into
the vineyard and do it.”
And one final word that
perhaps today’s lessons direct toward us is to remember from the first
lesson that God expects each of us to be responsible for the decisions
that we make. It’s not just a collective thing. We can’t say, “Because
my nation is going to war, I have to be supportive. It’s my nation.
I have to be part of it.” No, God is saying in that passage from
Ezekiel, “Each one of us must be accountable before God for the decision
I make.” Today the question is: Will we make the decision to
follow Jesus, not just to be a Christian in name, but in fact and to follow
his way and reject the ways of war, the way of violence. Each of
us will be accountable before God for the decisions that I make at this
time. That is something to pray over, and to ask God for the strength
and the courage to follow the way of Jesus, faithfully, always.
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.