The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 27th September 2020
Lectionary Readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 24:4-9; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32
Theme: Turn to God with all your heart
Our own personal, individual response to God’s call to turn to God with our whole heart is a theme running through our readings today. The focus of Chapter 18 of Ezekiel, the prophet of the Babylonian Exile, is on individual responsibility for one’s actions. Through his prophet, God tells those suffering the painful experience of exile that they cannot take the traditional way out and blame their predecessors for what they are going through. God challenges them to accept responsibility for their own actions, for which they will be judged, and goes on to call them to repentance: “Turn from all yourevil deeds, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! … I take no pleasure in the death of anyone… Repent and live!”(18:31-32) Recently, on September 19th, our Jewish friends celebrated their New Year, marking the beginning of the Jewish season of repentance, which will culminate tomorrow, Monday September 28th, in Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement. We wish them a new year of blessing and peace.
Psalm 24 presents the individual’s sense of having gone astray – “Do not remember the sins of my youth”and his/her desire for guidance from God about the way he/she should follow: “Lord, make me know your ways, /Lord, teach me your paths.”
The chapter, from which today’s Gospel is taken, begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds crying:“Hosanna to theSon of David!” Jesus then entered the Temple and drove out those who were engaged in selling and buying (vv.12-17). His authority is challenged by the chief priests and elders. We see that the gulf between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders becomes steadily wider. We need to remember that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the last quarter of the 1st century CE, when there were claims and counterclaims made between the emerging Christian group and the new rabbinic movement after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Thus in the story of the two sons, Matthew doesn’t just chide the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time but warns his own early Christian community: “Which of the two did his father’s will?” (v. 31). Reference to the “will of the father” occurs elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, always in the context of Jesus’ instruction of disciples (cf. 7:21). Jesus’ own prayer is that he might do the Father’s will: “If this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done” (26:42). Matthew’s community is to imitate the “good son”whoinitially refuses to obey but then decides to turn around and follow in obedience.
The reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians provides the foundation of such conversion: rootedness in Christ. Jesus, says Paul, is the truly obedient Son who says yes to his Father in the most radical way. This is the attitude of Christ Jesus that true followers of Jesus are to adopt: “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.”
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Sr. Margaret Shepherd, England.