Ezekiel 18:25-28,
Psalm 25,
Philippians 2:1-11,
Matthew 21:28-32

“Repetition is the mother of learning,” so the saying goes. Today’s readings repeat and reinforce some themes that we have seen in recent weeks: personal responsibility; God’s sovereign mercy; God’s desire that sinners turn back to him and be saved. The Collect today expresses this beautifully: “O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and  make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven.”


“The Lord’s way is not fair!” This is an old refrain, and it’s still being heard today. But the prophet Ezekiel explains and defends the Lord’s way. He says that it’s possible for the virtuous to turn to sin and to receive punishment for the sin – “he must die.” But it’s also possible for him to turn back to God and preserve his life. If he turns away from all the sins that he has committed, “he shall surely live, he shall not die.” There is nothing unfair about that!


The gospel reinforces the same idea – one son rebels and refuses the father’s order but later on changes his mind and obeys. The other son gives lip service – says “yes” but does “no.” Which of the two actually obeyed the father? Obviously, the first son. Jesus applies this example to the tax collectors and prostitutes who repented at the preaching of John the Baptist, whereas the chief priests and elders, seeing this, “did not change your minds and believe him.” The message is clear: turn, change, repent while there is still time. Don’t let your history determine your destiny!


The second reading continues the Letter to the Philippians, with the exhortation to unity and compassion, mercy and humility. It includes the beautiful and powerful passage regarding the humility of Jesus, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” Christ indeed “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The reading concludes with the description of God exalting Jesus before whom every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  


So it’s not how we start out but rather how we end up that counts. We can all pray with the Responsorial Psalm: “The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord.” Thank God for the word of hope in today’s readings. Thank God for giving us all second chances. Thank God for giving us opportunities to “turn and live.”

Al Mansfield