Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year Ezekiel 18: 25-28; Philippians 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32
“Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interest first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your mind you must be like Christ Jesus: his state was divine, but he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself. He was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross.”
St Paul’s words to the young church in Philippi were clearly a response to unrest and division within that community. Unresolved divisions become the seedbed of conflict, injustice and prejudice.
We live at a time of heightened awareness of the many prejudices and inequalities that continue to divide societies throughout the world. The worldwide pandemic has come as a cruel reminder of the divisions between rich and poor.
Rather than taking sides in the divisions that troubled the Philippian Church, Paul turned to the humility of the Word made flesh. It is a humility that is forgetful of self, and at the service of the other, that brings healing to divided families, churches and nations.
“In your minds, you must be like Christ Jesus.”
The prophet Ezekiel faced similar divisions in the Jerusalem of his day. Here the failing of any individual, or any nation, would lead to the exclusion of both family and nation. This was indeed visiting the sins of the father on the son, and all generations to follow.
Ezekiel pointed to the injustice and prejudice of such blanket exclusions. Instead, he underlined the individual responsibility of each person before God.
“When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin, he dies because of the evil he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding, he deserves to live.”
Prejudice, in all its forms, is a contradiction of God’s fundamental justice.
Jesus questioned the hypocrisy that hid the prejudice of the Pharisees, who tended to exclude all who did not conform to their strict standards. The story of the two sons, sent by their Father to work in the vineyard, illustrates the blindness of prejudice. The one at first refused to work, but, following reflection, gladly went to the vineyard. The other agreed to work, but then failed to carry out the promised work.
“Which of these two did the father’s will?”
Prejudice tends to judge and exclude others without asking of itself the most fundamental question.
Am I doing the Father’s will? Do my judgments reflect the Lord’s humility and openness to all humanity?