HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
HOMILY THEME: CHANGE OF HEART
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
What is your opinion? Is a change from evil to good better than a change from better to worse? Here is Prophet Ezekiel’s opinion on this matter: 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 (cf. Ezekiel 18:25-28).
Jesus began a story by asking the priests and elders of the people, “What is your opinion? He tells a story about a man who had two sons. The man said to the first, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not. ‘ The man came to the other son and gave the same order. This son said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Later on, the first who says, he will not go, changed his mind and went. At the end Jesus asked: “Which of the two did his father’s will?” (Matthew 21:28-32).
One thing that is common about the sons is that both changed their minds at different stages and so both sons were bad, since none of them gave a perfect response to the father. One changed his mind for the better and the other for the worse. However, what made one better than the other is that he eventually did the father’s will. What is also interesting in this parable is how the father gave instruction to his sons without twisting their arms or forcing them to do what he said. He gave them the freedom of choice.
This story has a deep meaning. Jesus told this parable to describe two major responses to the good news, which he proclaimed. The first bad son represents prostitutes, tax collectors and public sinners, who initially rejected God by their actions, but eventually acknowledged their sinfulness and had a conversion experience.
Prominent sinners in New Testament were Mary Magdalene, the thief on the cross, Zacchaeus, Levi, Samaritan woman, etc. These sinners changed from worse conditions in life and adopted a better, richer, and deeper relationship with the saviour. The second bad son represents the Pharisees who said yes to God only by their lips and not by their actions.
Jesus observes that those who believed in him were mostly the ordinary folks, but the religious elites were so full of pride and refused to change their minds for the better. They were stuck and fixated in their knowledge. Jesus did not just preach about change but he was a perfect example of change. He transformed himself and preached about transformation. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians about how Christ himself underwent a radical change when “he emptied himself, �taking the form of a slave, �coming in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). Paul expects the Philippians to learn from the humility of Christ and embrace a change of heart.
For sure, change is just not easy, and change is even more difficult when it comes to change of habits and lifestyles. Old habits die hard, they say and this is why St. Augustine found it hard to change his entire lifestyle after his conversion. He honestly prayed: “God make me chaste, but not yet.” The better son in the parable shows how human beings react to change. The first reaction is that of resistance to change and the second is a reflective response, which is acceptance of change. Isaac Newton’s perfectly describes the process of change in the first law of motion when he says: Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.
Change occurs when we begin to look at ourselves differently, when our world-view begins to change; when our thinking patterns change and we begin to alter our opinions; when we begin to see other people in a different light and when the things that matter less begin to matter more or when things that matter more begin to matter less. Conversion is a positive Change, which is turning away from evil and wickedness, and turning toward God. In my view, change of mind is measured by a change of heart. Change of mind consists of making a decisive change; a change of thinking pattern and it is what St. Paul calls “renewal of the mind” (Romans 12:2). Change of heart is about a change of affection, a redirection of love, behaviour, and attitude. Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
One thing that is always constant is change. Every day we keep changing either for better or worse, progressing or retrogressing. Some of us rise and fall, others fall and rise; yet some others rise, fall and rise again. I always wonder about the factors that motivate change in us? Wise people say nothing improve your driving skills than when you suddenly discover that your driving license has expired. A dramatic experience or maturity in our lives can bring some change, but there are also little things that can evoke a remarkable change in our lives: a word of encouragement from someone; a song that gives us goose pimples; a simple prayer from a friend that raises and revives our spirit; an experience of deep love. St. Augustine believes that humility is a key factor in positive change and so he says, it was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. Traditional wisdom asserts that some people will change when they see the light. Others change only when they feel the heat.
26th Sunday of the Year A;