26 Sunday o.t. (a bit of a rant)

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I have to admit that this Sunday’s readings are not my favorite. I can understand the point made by the parable of the two sons that are asked to work in the vineyard. One says he will do the work but does not, and the other refuses to do the work but changes his mind. I can also see clearly the truth made in that parables concluding statement. What we say and what we do often are two completely different things, the one that does what is required even begrudgingly makes the better choice . The problem though is the discussion that follows, where the two sinners mentioned are tax collectors and prostitutes. They are sinners by profession, and not really sinners by choice. I do understand how they were viewed in that era, and I also understand how certain professions are viewed in that same light today. Many times people are classified in society by social rank as if that social rank is a moral and ethical choice. That is degrading, and demoralizing, plain and simple.

One common term that is sometimes used to describe that phenomena is profiling. Jesus description of tax collectors and prostitutes seems, and let’s emphasize that word “seems,” to be a legitimizing of that practice. It is the viewing of sin through a social perspective, but is all that a society condones morally ethical? The reverse question also needs to be asked: is all that society condemns morally reprehensible? The point of the argument is that it was those tax collectors that did desire to do make restitution for their flaws. It was the prostitute that wished to avoid condemnation. In society their sins were obvious, and theirs was good illustration of a sinner. They were, and are, the easy target.

The point of the parable and the dialogue that follows though is not to only pay attention to the obvious. The moral of the story is to look for the subtleties, and to examine carefully that relationship between good and evil. It is through a true examination that one finds the often small details that are a person’s “sins.” If one can spot the sins of that tax collector and prostitute, can one also see their virtue: or has any promise of virtue been masked by their stigma? Perhaps one might miss their determination to provide for a family, or their remorse.

How easy though is it to overlook that human flaw of judgment, or callousness? How easy is it to overlook the fact that the one pointing the finger is often a sinner, an oversight that is made easier if they are a person of good standing? One should not forget the point that Jesus points his finger at the tax collector and prostitute that their repentance is their virtue. That was John the Baptists message, repent, and to repent is to make correction in ones lives. Repentance is not something anyone is above, saint or sinner. It is through repentance that sinners often become saints. The message is one of examination of conscious and of repentance, it is not one of judgment.

If anything this gospel story is an introduction to the sacrament of confession. Before confessing one must first find their own flaws and transgressions, and be willing to make a change. Contrast that with accusing another individual, and then pronouncing a sentence. The first is the message of John, the latter the sometimes laws of society. It is easy to point a finger at someone else, not so easy though to point it at ourselves. That though is what Jesus asks us to do, to correct our own faults. Our sins are forgiven, but they still need to be acknowledged by us, and corrected through our repentance.

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 136


ez 18:25-28

phil 2:1-11

mt 21:28-32

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