The Attitude of Jesus
Hello and welcome to Spend Five with Jesus for this Sunday, October 1st, 2023. I am the friar, and it is wonderful to have you with us today.
Because that’s really, I think, at the heart of what some of the struggle is, is how to strike the appropriate balance between those truths, those principles that never change with those things that sometimes we have to let go of because God is doing something new in our lives.
The readings, the gospel and the first reading kind of do a sort of parallel thing where you have somebody who said they’re gonna do the right thing and then they turn away. And then you have, on the other hand, someone who started by turning away, then regretted it, had remorse and turned back to God, turned back to doing the right thing.
Today’s readings really kind of strike me as setting an important tone for something that is fundamentally a problem in our day and age, I think. Now maybe it’s a problem in every day and age, but I think we all kind of struggle with with this sense of, in what place is there or what place can there be for something objective in our life that applies always and everywhere.
And those types of things are really important and I think encouraging for us. But part of the challenge I think is that we can find ourselves living in an age where there really isn’t a question of fairness because there isn’t a question of a common standard that defines fairness.
Here’s what I mean. You will hear a little child say, “That’s not fair.” Generally speaking, when we get underneath the surface of that statement, what really is being said is, “I didn’t get to do what I want” or “I didn’t get what I want, and that’s not fair.”
They don’t really care much about the objective standards of fairness as much as they care that they get what they think they deserve. And we as adults are not much different really. How often have you heard the expression, You’ve got your truth, I’ve got mine? Don’t bother me. As long as what you do doesn’t bother me, I’m not gonna worry about it.
The problem with that way of thinking is that when we think that way, what happens is by the time we discover or find the problem, it’s too late. Things have already spiraled out of control and the solution is really that much more difficult. So what is the point of these readings today?
Well, the biggest point is to recognize that if you’re going to put any emphasis on something, you should put it on the fact that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. If there is going to be a standard, then it only makes sense that the smartest person the room, namely Almighty God, would in fact get pride of place and more than pride of place in helping us to understand what it means to be accountable to God. What it means to follow Him, what it means to do His will.
It’s not enough just to say we’re doing God’s will, we actually have to do God’s will. And that’s really an important factor.
In the first reading, part of what Ezekiel is really addressing is the fact that there was a feeling that when bad things happened in the present age it was because of something horrible that had happened previously by their ancestors. They were being punished for the bad sins of, I don’t know, their father or their grandfather or whatever. And Ezekiel is making a clear point about morality. No, that’s not true.
What really is true is that every person is responsible for their own moral life. And that’s what Ezekiel is saying today. That’s what he’s helping us to understand.
Jesus now takes this and goes a little bit farther with it. And what he means is that when we look at these two sons, one who says, “I’m not gonna go,” but then regrets saying that and goes, and another who says he’s gonna go but ultimately doesn’t, that it’s the one who actually does what God wants that is pleasing to God.
God would rather have someone who takes a while to get around to doing his will than someone who’s playing like he’s doing God’s will but in fact isn’t doing it at all. This Gospel is a reading fundamentally about the mercy of God, about God’s forgiveness of our sins.
But what is the objective standard for Christians? That’s where the second reading comes in. If we are looking to discover how it is we are supposed to act, then Saint Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Philippians. The standard, if you will, is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
And the standard comes from an attitude that Jesus displayed in the way in which he lives his life. The standard comes from the fact that he did the will of the Father even in the face of it causing great suffering for him, great difficulty for him as a human being. He did the will of the Father because he didn’t cling to his divinity, but rather humbled himself by becoming a human being.
Not even the next lowest creature, which would be an angel, but a human being because we have physicality, we have limits that angels don’t have because they’re not physical. And so if we’re asking ourselves what should I do? What is the will of God? Then we need to think about the type of attitude that then leads us to do the things that God wants us to do, to do the things the gospel challenges us to do. So think about your life today and I’ll think about mine.
Let’s ask ourselves, what is it that God is calling me to do? How is it that God is calling me to accountability? How is it that God is asking me, inviting me into this deep relationship? Because those are the questions that lead to eternal life.
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