Today, we have two important messages from God through his prophet Ezekiel. The first message is about individual responsibility. The second is the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. About the first, the event was towards the final siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The people were being rounded up for captivity into Babylon. The people were well convinced that God was punishing them, and even had abandoned them. For that reason, they questioned the fairness of God. Who is this God who does not make a distinction between the just and the wicked? Who is this God who punishes the righteous along with the sinners? They blamed their demise on the sins of their ancestors. With that, they concluded with the saying: ”Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge.” In our first reading, God answers back to redirect the attention of His people-to individual accountability, and made them to know that individual responsibility and conversion are very important. When a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. At the same time, there is the possibility of pardon through repentance for one’s accumulated evils as well as the risk of losing all the good one has done by returning to doing evil. The problem many in the Old Testament had, was that they considered mere worship in the temple together with ritual observances, as being righteous. They did not pay much attention to moral obligations as well as translation of their beliefs to practice in relationship with their fellow human beings. Right believing must go hand in hand with right doing. Orthodoxy must correlate with orthopraxis.
In our gospel reading, Jesus uses the parable of the two Sons to address the situation of the religious leaders of his time, who questioned his authority. The Parable under consideration is a way Jesus wanted his critics to answer which is better; to say ‘yes’ and do ‘no’ or to say ‘no’ and do ‘yes’. Here, we know that word alone is not enough but deed. The outsiders to the Jewish common-wealth, the tax-collectors and sinners, the lowest in the social order may have preference in the Kingdom, if they perform works that indicate real conversion. The Parable of the two sons, brings us to remember what Jesus told us last Sunday that the first shall be the last, and the last, first. Jesus’ ministry will bring about the reversal of order and events. Jesus chooses the weak and makes them strong, through His Grace, and shames the strong and the wise of this world. The highly placed in this world, are humiliated when it comes to the things of the Kingdom of God, while the lowly are exalted.
What makes one justified in the Old Testament was the keeping of the laws by living out the covenant which they entered into, with their God. In the New Testament, what justifies us is our acceptance of Jesus Christ. He is our covenant with our God, he is our law to be kept. Through imitation of him and his ways, his love, his cares for all God’s people, we shall be justified by God.
Inspired by the Wisdom of God, St. Paul instructs us today to humbly regard others as more important than ourselves, each looking out for others’ interests. In this way, we are to imitate the humility of Jesus Christ which leads to glory and exaltation. St Paul’s exhortation to humility and selfless service, is based on Christ’s own example, who, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, he was obedient even unto death, death on a cross. As a result of this, God exalted him to the highest place, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, and every tongue will confess his Lordship, to the glory of God the Father. As we celebrate today, may God give us the Spirit and the grace to become Christ-like and so please him, now and forever. Amen