Updated: Sep 28
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2020
Readings: 1st- Ezk. 18:25-28; 2nd- Phil. 2:1-11; Gospel- Matt. 21:28-32
Quite often we hear expressions describing people’s behaviors and mannerisms. We hear expressions such as “she has an attitude,” meaning that the person is ill-mannered in speech or in the way she attends to others. Knowing and understanding one’s attitude is important because it proceeds from one’s mental and cognitive states and extends to the individual’s actions toward others. Yes, an attitude can depict a negative approach or hostile state of mind. It can also be bigger than that as seen in the readings of today. An attitude can represent one’s readiness to respond in a characteristic way to a stimulus, an environment, or a situation. The Christian attitude ought to be the believer’s readiness to respond in the manner of Christ, hence, to live out their baptismal promises. Paul captures it as the standard for Christian living.
In the first reading, Ezekiel starts with the reminder; there’s no middle ground in following God. Either one is in or out, no half measures. In Ezekiel’s time, the people’s mindset deceives them to think of justifying their ignoble actions. The prophet does not cherish that, so he warns them that the virtuous person must always remain virtuous, not go back and forth. If the virtuous person forfeits good and starts to do evil, treating others as inferior, merely having the mental attitude of thinking himself as righteous will not save him. Rather, if the virtuous person turns from evil and restores himself to goodness, the person will live. God’s way is always fair.
In the gospel, Christ uses an open-ended parable to challenge his listeners to examine the source of their thinking. He invites his audience to assess whose will shapes their daily lives. He uses the example of two sons in response to their father’s demands to work in the vineyard. The first son says no to the father but later goes. The second son says yes but does not go. Even though there’s something fundamentally wrong in the two sons’ responses, the second son shows a change in attitude towards the father’s appeal. He represents a repentant heart that appeals to God more; he demonstrates the importance of commitment to the faith. The first son, in that context, is likened to tax collectors and prostitutes categorized as stereotypical sinners within the Jewish community but who eventually repent. The second son depicts religious leaders who agree to work, who seem eager to prescribe divine norms but slow to living them out. Their sense of superiority shows a negative attitude towards the kingdom.
In the second reading, Saint Paul points out how crucial thoughts and attitudes are in the Christian life. Paul uses the Philippian community to exhort Christians on the true standard for good Christian living. He exposes negative attitudes caused by vainglory, then narrates the benefits of Christ’s self-emptying for believers. The key to a healthy community living for Paul is to imitate Christ, be “of the same mind,” be “united in thinking one thing,” for the good of the community. In order to achieve this, Paul invites believers thus, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory.” Vainglory results in self-exaltation, in failure to identify the needs of others before one’s own needs.
On the contrary, true glory comes from humility, the standard set by Christ which Saint Paul challenges us to make the rule of life, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5) Christ’s self-emptying is exemplary. Christ becomes obedient like a slave. He humbles himself, suffers to the point of dying a shameful death on the cross. Such outstanding humility is something to emulate, “Because of this, God has 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 is one of the most powerful declarations of the significance of Christ’s death in the scriptures. But importantly, it invites us to understand how to live an authentic Christian life for ourselves and for others. Hence, it is pertinent to reflect on some personal questions as we leave Church this weekend: how do I think? What informs my opinion about faith and morals? What informs my attitude or outlook about decisions as a Christian?
Think about these words, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory.” This should not just be a rule of faith but a rule of life to ensure the common good. Imagine if politicians do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if teachers do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if doctors do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if businessmen do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if the media do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if pregnant women do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if bishops, priests, pastors, and evangelists do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. In the family, imagine if couples, parents, siblings do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. In the global circles, imagine if leaders of nations and continents -the United States, Russia, Britain, Australia, if Africa, Asia, Europe, do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. Imagine if the rich and powerful do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory.
Imagine if everyone does nothing out of selfishness and vainglory; if you, I, all of us do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. How wonderful this world would be! Such is the attitude of Christ, the standard for Christian living.
This is a strong invitation for each of us to reassess our attitudes and possibly make a change. God accepts us when we change. What God abhors is obstinacy, a sense of consistent self-justification, self-righteousness, and, or exaggerated self-worth that blurs our vision of love and justice. The attitude of Christ is inviting and liberating. The attitude of Christ is freeing. It is the attitude of humility, service, and open-mindedness. Emulating Christ’s attitude merits authentic, true glory; “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen.