God Gives Us the Freedom to Choose Him

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Fr. Jim homily

5 minute read


Ex. 18:25-28; Ps. 25; Phil. 2:1-11; Mt. 21:28-32

Today, we are reminded of God’s mercy, and the importance of conforming our will to the will of the Father. St. Paul encourages the Philippians to, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus….” What was Jesus’ attitude? Simply put, Jesus sought to carry out his Father’s will. And by carrying out his Father’s will, he has obtained mercy for all who believe. Remember, mercy is compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power. Jesus, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is the Son of God, therefore, we are all under his power. Mercy is also a disposition to be kind and forgiving. With mercy, Jesus ticks all the boxes.

St. Paul describes this in his letter to the Philippians. He says, Jesus, who was God, became one with us—the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. The Creator became the creature so he could speak to us on our level. And while he could have used his Divinity as a way to impose his will on the earth, he chose rather to remain obedient to the Father, even if that obedience meant death on a cross. This is the length to which Jesus was willing to go for the sake of mankind. He loved us so much that he humbled himself, became one with us in humanity, and offered our humanity to the Father on the cross as a sacrifice in expiation for our sins.

St. Paul says, “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every 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.” This Jesus, whom God exalted, and sits at the right hand of the Father, comes to us today in the Eucharist. Jesus is truly and substantially present among us under the appearances of bread and wine, which we know are no longer bread and wine, but rather, his most precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Every consecrated host contains the fullness of Christ, and we who receive him worthily are continually transformed by him, whenever we approach the altar. How often do we ponder the awesome miracle of Jesus’ Real Presence among us at Mass?

When we ponder what is truly happening at Mass, namely, the sacrifice of Calvary being re-created here by the priest, we cannot help but be humbled by what Jesus did for us all. And the Father, who accepted his sacrifice, opened the gates of heaven for all who believe and are baptized. Our baptism, therefore, is not just a ceremonial washing, but a permanent character given us by God such that we are made sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Again, St. Paul tells us that Jesus was in the form of God, but then humbled himself when he became flesh. He showed us perfect obedience to the Father, who willed that the death of his Son should bring about all righteousness. The prophet Ezekiel describes the importance of being righteous. He tells us, “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….” In other words, God’s Divine Justice demands that the sinner must die, but on the other hand, if one turns away from sin, then God will show mercy on the sinner and preserve his life.

It is the same story with the Parable of the Two Sons in today’s Gospel. The father asks his two sons to go work in the vineyard. One son tells his father no, but later changes his mind, while the other tells his father yes, but does nothing. But, one of these sons realizes it was wrong to defy his father, and changes his mind. He turns from defiance to obedience and he carries out his father’s will. It is no different in our relationship with God. Certainly there are times we run away from God, from carrying out his will. Typically these are the times we are carrying out our own will, our own desires, our own plans. And when we are doing that, how often does everything go our way? It reminds me of the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” But, when we put aside our own will and turn back to God, we realize that he does not condemn us, rather, he gives us the freedom to choose him, every day, every moment.

And so, as we meditate on the ways we may have strayed from God, let us be mindful of how today, in this moment, we are choosing to be with him at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No one dragged us out of bed to be here today. We did that of our own free will. So, may the communion we share, the awesome sign of Jesus Real Presence in and among us, help us to remain close to him, to follow him, to be obedient like him, so that as St. Paul says, “we may have the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus,” who loves us.

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