REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
HOMILY TOPIC: OBEDIENCE TO GOD
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mt 21:28-32
Message # 202: “The Desert Where I Withdraw”
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother’s message is along the theme of conversion. She compares our hearts as to a desert: “That desert is your heart made arid by so many wounds, in a world flooded with rebellion against God and His law, marked with hatred and violence which spreads menacingly” (letter d).
b) As we earnestly follow the Blessed Mother and consecrate our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, she enters into our hearts and “sets up her refuge” there (letter e). Her presence will gradually transform our hearts “into a garden, cultivated by me with special care” (letter f). This will be made possible as she does three things to us.
c) First, she will cultivate our hearts with the water of her “tenderness of my immaculate love” and our souls “with the grace with which I am filled” (letter g).
d) Second, with our hearts wounded by sins and vices, she will heal our wounds “with heavenly balm”, and she will clean up our hearts from all the thorny bushes of our sins and “inordinate attachments” (letter h).
e) Then she will fill our hearts with love and heavenly graces as she sows “the seeds of love for my Son, Jesus, that it may spring up and blossom in an ever more perfect and luminous way” (letter i).
f) Thus, our hearts, which has been like a desert, will become a fertile and fruitful garden, filled with “the colors and the fragrance of my virtues: prayer, humility, purity, silence, trust, littleness, obedience and perfect abandonment” (letter k).
g) Finally, she calls us on to the road of conversion and new life as she urges us to “grow and develop, while each day I transform your desert into the most beautiful garden, guarded jealously by me” (letter l). Such is what we express in our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto yours.”
2. The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading talks about conversion. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God reminds His people that sin leads to death: “If a virtuous man turns away from virtues, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” But God is merciful to those who turn away from sins. “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right, he shall preserve his life…he shall surely live.”
b) The Responsorial Psalm is a sinner’s plea for mercy and forgiveness: “Remember your mercies, O Lord.” He asks God to be merciful as He has been in the past: “Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old.”
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c) The second reading is St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. It is his challenge and call to all Christians to follow the example of Christ: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” Then he reminds all of us about the perfect example of humble obedience of Jesus. This is the most ancient Christological hymn, extolling the humility and obedience of Jesus, even to the point of suffering and death on the cross. This, then, led him to his glory in heaven as the victorious Lord. Such is the reward of total and humble obedience to the will of God.
d) The Gospel is the parable of the two sons. The first son said ‘no’ to the father. But he regretted it, and went to fulfill his father’s command. The second son said ‘yes,’ but he did not follow his father’s order. Both offended their father. While the first son was forgiven because he had a change of heart and obeyed later on, the second son was not, because he did not obey his father. This is an echo of the first reading. God always forgives sinners who truly repent of their sins. Repentance and conversion of hearts are necessary to obtain forgiveness and mercy from God.
e) Relation to the Marian Message. The readings all speak about conversion of sinners and God’s boundless mercy for them. The Blessed Mother compares our sinful hearts to that of a barren desert. She will, however, extend her maternal care and power so that our hearts will be converted and become once again fertile soil for the word of God to grow and bear much fruits. The desert will once more become a beautiful garden, truly pleasing in the eyes of God.
3. Points for Reflection
a) Growing in holiness and salvation cannot be attained by just avoiding sin. In fact, in the final judgment, the basis will be more on the sins of omission rather than on the sins of commission. In the parable on the last judgment in Mt 25, the king said to those condemned: “For whatsoever you neglect to do to the least of my brethren, you neglect to do it to me.” It is, therefore, quite important that we do not only avoid sin, but also, and more importantly, do good to our neighbors. That is why the Church recommends corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Most of us are familiar with the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, etc. But many of us are not too familiar with the spiritual works of mercy. If we care for the body, we should also all the more care for the soul. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray and do something for the conversion of sinners, such as admonishing sinners, giving instruction to the ignorant and counseling the doubtful. Scriptures tell us that this will gain for us the salvation of our souls as well.
b) “Actions speak louder than words.” Jesus said, “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God.” The second son in the parable said “yes”, but did not obey his father. His words did not mean anything. In fact, he was lying. The first son said “no” but later regretted it and obeyed his father. In the end, what truly matters is doing the will of God. That is why Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” They may have sinned, but they listened to God’s words, repented of their sins and reformed their lives. Jesus addresses these same words to us as a warning. We cannot be complacent and presumptuous. Being true disciples of Jesus is not a matter of words, but of deeds, that is, total and unconditional obedience to God.
c) In real life, the most difficult vow to live is obedience. In poverty, there comes a time when a person reaches his saturation point, and he feels he has to stop accumulating worldly things. As regards chastity and celibacy, as one grows older, the desire for sexual intimacy gradually dissipates. But in the case of obedience, as one grows older, it becomes more difficult to obey superiors, especially when they are younger and less experienced. It is the most difficult vow because it means total surrender of one’s power and autonomy to somebody else, and it needs genuine humility. Jesus himself struggled with this up to his last moments before his passion: “Father, let this cup of suffering pass, but not my will be done but yours.”
The Gospel parable talks about two sons. But we are to follow neither of them. Rather, we follow the third son, the one who said “yes’ and then fully obeyed the Father. This third son is Jesus. St. Paul proclaims this in his Letter to the Philippians, the second reading of this Sunday: “he humbled himself, obediently accepting death, even death on the cross… And because of this, God exalted him…”
Obedience is very difficult, but it is the supreme expression of humility and trust, and it obtains for us true freedom and sublime glory. Jesus told St. Faustina, “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.” St. Gregory the Great said, “Obedience, is rightly placed before all other sacrifices, for in offering a victim as sacrifice, one offers a life that is not one’s own; but when one obeys, he is immolating his own will.”
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