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First reading Ezekiel 18:25-28

When the sinner renounces sin, he shall certainly live

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’
 

Responsorial Psalm 24(25):4-9

Remember your mercy, Lord.
 
Lord, make me know your ways.
  Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
  for you are God my saviour.
 
Remember your mercy, Lord,
  and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth.
  In your love remember me,
  because of your goodness, O Lord.
 
The Lord is good and upright.
  He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
  He teaches his way to the poor.
 

Second reading Philippians 2:1-11

Be united in your love

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:
 
His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
 

Gospel Matthew 21:28-32

Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’
 

Reflection

How does God reveal his ways? The best answer is found by looking at Jesus and responding to his invitation to come and follow him. Jesus said of himself: ‘I am the Way’ (John 14:6). This is the theme of the Second Reading. Jesus is presented to us as our model in humility and Paul asks his friends in Philippi to think as Jesus thinks.

If we think as Jesus does we will avoid selfish ambition: we will cease focusing attention on what we want without regard to the needs of others or to the effects which our self-centred behaviour is having on those around us. If we think the way Jesus thinks we will not be conceited: that is to say, we will not act as though we were the centre of the world and that everyone has to fit in with us. We will not think it alright to say what we like to others, not caring whether it hurts their feelings or not. Like Jesus we will respect the sacred in others.

The Gospel reminds us that the most important thing for us is to do the will of God. This is not a matter only of words or of good intentions. It is a matter of decision. Jesus could say of himself that he always did what was pleasing to his Father.

Let us watch Jesus, let us follow him, and let us pray that his Spirit will so inform our minds and hearts that we too will want only what God wants and find our pleasure in doing God’s will.

How do we know God’s will? The community can be of great help to us here. We have a long and rich tradition that holds a good deal of wisdom, for it is the product of the reflections and saintly lives of millions of disciples of Jesus. We are rather foolish if we think that we know better than the Church.

Sometimes, in particular instances, what is presented as Church teaching concerning human behaviour is not based on faith or on properly assessed human experience. In matters that are not central to our communal faith there can be room for disagreement.

But if we always think we know better than the community, and if we fail to take notice of the ordinary wisdom that is contained in time-honoured teaching, we are neglecting a most important source for the discovery of God’s will.

In all matters, however, our conscience is primary. By conscience we do not mean our personal preferences. We do not mean the way we happen to look at things. We are not referring to our prejudices or what gratifies our self-interest. We are talking about the sacred encounter between God and ourselves that takes place in the depths of our being.

Whatever advice we receive from others, we must take it to prayer and listen to our hearts where God is inspiring us to follow his ways. God is calling each of us to take a step in love from where we now are. Ultimately only we can know what that step is, for only we can know our readiness and where grace is leading us at this moment.

The art of obedience, therefore, is based on a humble listening to others and a courageous trust in God, whose Spirit is inspiring us to do the truth in love.

Fr Michael Fallon