Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - September 27, 2020
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my savior. (Psalm 25:4-5)
On the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year, as the Collect for Mass begins with the acknowledgment that God “manifests [His] almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy.” Here, our prayer reminds us of the ways of God. Then, in the First Reading, we hear the prophet, Ezekiel, delivering God’s Word and contrasting the fairness of God’s way and our ways in an effort to encourage the people to turn from wickedness and sin to do what is right and just. God’s just and merciful way is fair because God saves the person who repents and strives for the right action toward others. The theme continues with the words of the Responsorial Psalm, as we pray, “Remember your mercies, O Lord,” and, in the words of Psalm 25, we beg the Lord to make know his ways, teach us his paths and guide us in His truth.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us another insight into God’s way – by means of the recurring theme of “doing the will of the Father.” The parable of the two sons who are asked by their father to work in his vineyard picks up the spirit of Ezekiel’s exhortation. One son tells his father he will not cooperate but later repents and goes to work in the vineyard. The other son says he will work, but he does not. Jesus, pointing to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and those like them, teaches the chief priests and elders (and us) that those who change their mind and attitude and repent will have a place in the Kingdom of God.
What matters is not what we hear and say, but what we do. Professing our faith means living our faith. Calling on the Lord’s mercy means that we are merciful toward others. (Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel two weeks ago!) Each of today’s readings invites us to consider the ways we are called to walk in the ways of the Lord and do the will of our heavenly Father – to do what is right, true, and just.
For his part, Saint Paul appreciated the challenge. Trying to offer practical advice about doing what is right, as Jesus speaks about it in Matthew’s Gospel, Paul shows how it is demonstrated in the actions of Christ in today’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Philippians. Writing a couple of decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul encourages the Philippians and us, “to be of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing, doing nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, humbly regarding others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for his own interest, but for those of others.” Paul tells us that we are called to take on the attitude of Christ himself. As portrayed in the beautiful hymn, Christ’s life – His powerful teachings and actions, passion, death, and exaltation – all manifest His humble obedience to the will of the Father.
Today, and in the coming days and weeks, we would do well to be attentive to the ways our Lord is inviting us to accept the invitation to serve others in humility and to offer those daily actions of service as a prayer. When those moments come, we might also ask the Lord for his help to empty ourselves as he did, so that we might be filled with the Father’s love and order our lives according to His purposes. May the work of our hands always give glory and thanksgiving to our almighty and loving God for all that we have inherited through His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ!