Sunday, 9/28/2014, Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
If It Ain’t God’s Way, It Ain’t Gonna Work
Isn’t it interesting how we can take scripture from the Old Testament and apply it to life in today’s world? That is certainly true with today’s prophecy from Ezekiel.
Many people say that the Church needs to catch up with the times. So they have either switched religions or have stopped going to church except for special holidays or special occasions or they have stopped going to church all together. Other people have given up on religion. They claim to be Spiritual with no religious affiliation. Then there are those who claim to be Agnostic or even Atheist. All of these people should take a moment to meditate on what the LORD says through Ezekiel.
The LORD poses the question saying, “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.”
God says a lot in that statement. First, God is reminding us once again that our ways are not His ways and that we do not think as He does. We cannot carry out God’s Will by trying to do things our way. I have commented in the past, “If it ain’t God’s way, it ain’t gonna work.” In posing the question about what we consider to be fair as opposed to what He considers to be fair, God is telling us that if it is not His way, whatever it is that we are trying to do simply will not work!
Second, God is telling us that there is good (virtue) in all of us and that He created us to do good which is His Will. When we fail to do what is good, we turn away from the virtue within us which means that we turn away from His Will.
Third, God is telling us that if we turn away from His Will, we will die. This physical life is only temporary and we will all die to this life anyway. That is a given. But it is not our physical life that God is talking about. Rather, it is the Spiritual life. If we turn away from virtue, we will experience a second death which means that our spirit will perish in hell. But if we do not turn away from virtue, our spirit will live and enjoy eternal peace and happiness in heaven.
For those of us who do believe in God, there is something else to consider. Who are we to question the fairness of God’s ways? For those who do not see the virtue in going to church because the Church needs to catch up with the times, I ask, who are we to tell God that His ways are behind the times?
If you do not catch the connection, consider this. The Catholic Church, as well as many Non-Catholic churches and even many Non-Christian churches, draws a hard line against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. The Commandment is: Thou shall not kill. Notice that there is a period behind that commandment. God did not give us the exceptions of abortion, euthanasia or capital punishment nor did He give us the right to change the law.
Instead of questioning if God’s way is fair, we need to take a look within ourselves and recognize the unfairness of our way. Not only do we fail to be fair to each other when we turn away from the good that God instilled inside of us, we fail to be fair to ourselves and that is much worse because we set ourselves up to be denied the eternal peace and happiness of heaven.
And so, God tells us that if we turn away from our sins, we shall not die. There can be no better reason to not question the fairness of God’s way other than the fact that this prophecy is also another promise from God of His infinite mercy and forgiveness.
The Example to Follow
Although Paul does not refer directly to today’s prophecy from Ezekiel, in effect he is giving us the same message telling us to turn away from sin and to love each other. He tells us that in Christ we find; encouragement, solace in love, participation in the Spirit, compassion and mercy.
When we try to find these things in worldly pleasures, we find that we can never be satisfied. This is because none of these things come from the world or anyone in the world. They come from God and from God alone. Yes, we can offer encouragement to each other, we should love each other in obedience to the Second Greatest Commandment, we do participate in the Spirit when we listen to the advice that He gives us in our conscience, we can show compassion to one another and we should show mercy to each other by forgiving any trespasses against us. But we are only able to do any of these things because God instilled the virtue within us that makes it possible for us to do so.
Paul also tells us to follow the example of Christ as He obeyed His Father without question. We are reminded by Paul, that in His humanity, Jesus did not regard equality with God. Rather, Jesus emptied Himself totally and completely and did exactly what the Father asked Him to do. For this, He was greatly exalted and at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend and every tongue, confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Those of us who believe in the Trinity know that Jesus Christ is Lord. But we do not always stop to think about the fact that in His humanity, Jesus taught us how to reach the Father. We listen to His Word in the gospels and we notice His great works but we do not always pay attention to the example that He gave us.
Jesus not only told us to be humble, He was humble. Jesus not only told us to obey the Father, He obeyed the Father Himself. Jesus not only told us to love our neighbor, He loved His neighbor (all of mankind) to the point of taking our sins to the cross.
So even though Paul did not mention Ezekiel’s prophecy in his letter to the Philippians, Paul is telling us that if we are to obey the LORD’s Word in Ezekiel’s prophecy, we must follow the example of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Who Would You Rather Be?
Do not do as I do. Do as I say. Has anyone ever said that to you? Or did they say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Sometimes, the message is implied without any words being used at all. Such was the case with the chief priests and elders that Jesus addressed in today’s gospel.
The chief priests and elders were telling the people to obey the Law of the LORD even though they were breaking the Law themselves. Worse yet, they were hypocrites by teaching and proclaiming Scripture while refusing to acknowledge Christ for who He was. Together with the Pharisees, they were too caught up in self-righteous pride to recognize Christ as the Messiah. Instead, they wanted everyone to pay attention to them and do as they preached.
Jesus was born, lived His life, honored the Father and died a Jew. As a result, Christianity has its roots in Judaism. But because of the refusal of the Pharisees, chief priests and elders to accept Christ for who He was, when Christ began His Church, He replaced them with the Apostles.
In the parable of the Two Sons, Jesus was giving the Pharisees, chief priests and elders a warning. He was also letting them know why they would not be leaders in His Church and He was repeating the message in Ezekiel’s prophecy to all of us.
In the parable, the father is God the Father. The son who first said no but later changed his mind is the tax collector or the prostitute. Actually, anyone who is a believer in Christ is represented by this son because anytime that we sin, we say, “no” but anytime we repent, we change our minds. The son who said yes but did not do as the father asked represents the Pharisees, chief priests and elders.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” Non-believers may argue that this makes no sense but those of us who do believe know that God’s mercy and forgiveness are without limit and granted to those who turn away from sin as is promised in Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Jesus could have easily reminded the chief priests and elders of Ezekiel’s prophecy although He did not mention it. For that matter, there are many other parts of Scripture that Jesus could have reminded them of in making His point. Instead, Jesus reminded them of John the Baptist who lived in their time and proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus told the chief priests and elders that John came in the way of righteousness but they did not believe him. Even after they saw tax collectors and prostitutes believe and repent, the chief priests and elders still did not believe.
Once again, they were too consumed in pride, wanted all of the attention as important people and wanted things done their way. They were hypocrites because even though they proclaimed the Law, they had turned away from the Law and as a result, had turned away from God. This is evidenced by their refusal to listen to John and recognize Christ as the Messiah.
So, read today’s gospel and the parable of the Two Sons and ask yourself, “Which character would I rather be?”