26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: October 01, 2023
It is often stated: "If you wish to plan for a year, cultivate flowers; if you wish to plan for ten years, plant trees; if you wish to plan for eternity, develop men and women." Cultivating good habits and nurturing human values take time. In spite of education, experience, intelligence, knowledge, and past history, still we fall short of becoming perfect human beings. There is always something lacking in us. This void in our lives could be filled only by that God who created us and brought us forth into this universe. The liturgical readings for this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time invite us to cultivate good human values based on divine wisdom so that we may live in God continuously.
1. Personal responsibility with a sense of integrity and consistency.
In the last few Sundays, the writings from the Prophets continue to admonish us why we must choose life and avoid wickedness and evil. Today Prophet Ezekiel 18:25–28 in the Bible offers profound spiritual insights on personal responsibility and the importance of aligning our lives with divine values. These verses prompt us to reflect deeply on how we can cultivate human values, become better individuals, and maintain God as our guiding light in our journey of self-improvement. God's message through Ezekiel underscores the potential for transformation and redemption. We are not bound by our past mistakes. By turning away from wrongdoing and embracing justice and righteousness, we can experience a spiritual rebirth and growth.
Interestingly, Prophet Ezekiel emphasizes personal responsibility for our actions. We are called to examine our own ways and not blame God for the consequences of our choices. To cultivate human values, we must first recognize our capacity to choose righteousness and turn away from wickedness. This means we must develop a sense of consistency in our moral and ethical conduct. Cultivating human values involves living by those values consistently, not just when it is convenient. God calls us to be steadfast in our commitment to righteousness for He is just and merciful. As we navigate through life's complexities, prayer, reflection, critical thinking and study are essential to live in integrity.
2. Union with Christ Jesus with humility and selflessness.
St Paul writing this beautiful Christological hymn to Philippians 2:1–11, offers the profound idea of how we are united in Christ Jesus. Thanks to this bond in Christ, we are blessed abundantly. To cultivate the human virtues in our lives, we must recognize our source of encouragement, comfort, and compassion that is rooted in our relationship with Christ. This unity provides a foundation for personal growth and ethical living. St Paul invites us saying "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4). Humility and selflessness are central virtues to be integrated, if we want to be true disciples of Christ Jesus.
Taking the example of Christ means having the mindset of Christ. Because Jesus exemplified the ultimate humility and selflessness by willingly becoming a servant and even sacrificing His life on the cross for the sake of humanity. This act of Jesus did not diminish his divinity or honour instead He was exalted above everything. This divine recognition and honor highlight the rewards of living a life in alignment with God's values. God glorifies our actions if we live by the divine virtues. Therefore, we must keep God as our guide, we must continually acknowledge His sovereignty and submit to His lordship in our lives.
3. Match our actions with words
The Gospel of St Matthew 21:28–32 presents a parable on how one should become a better individual and keep God as our guide. In the parable, we see the first son initially refused his father's request but later changed his mind and followed through, while the second son gave a positive response but did not fulfill the request. Cultivating human values and becoming better individuals require consistent alignment between our words and actions. The first son's change of heart and willingness to obey reflects the concept of repentance and transformation. We, too, have the capacity to change our ways, seeking forgiveness and embracing God's guidance when we have strayed. True repentance leads to personal growth and alignment with godly values.
The parable highlights the contrast between sincerity and hypocrisy. The second son's initial willingness was insincere, whereas the first son's initial refusal was followed by genuine action. To cultivate human values, we should aim for sincerity and authenticity in our actions, reflecting our commitment to God's guidance. This parable serves as a reminder that God is the ultimate authority and guide in our lives. Both sons ultimately answered to their father's authority. Similarly, we are called to submit ourselves to God's guidance, obey His commandments, and live according to His values. God is, indeed, merciful and forgiving, welcoming us back when we turn toward Him and live in accordance with His will.
Questions for self-reflection:
- Am I consistently obedient to God's will and commands, or do I sometimes say "yes" to Him but fail to follow through with my actions?
- How often do I take the time to reflect on my actions and consider whether they align with God's expectations and teachings?
- In my interactions with others, am I quick to judge them based on their outward appearances and actions, or do I recognize the potential for transformation and redemption in everyone, as Jesus did with tax collectors and sinners?
Prayer based on Psalm 25
Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you with humble hearts, seeking your guidance and wisdom. Teach us your ways, O Lord, and lead us in your truth. We trust in your unfailing love and grace. Help us to remember your mercy and compassion, forgiving our shortcomings and guiding us on the right path. May we walk in integrity and righteousness, for your name's sake.
Lord, we lift up our concerns and burdens to you, knowing that you are our refuge. Please show us the way, and grant us your peace and understanding. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
September 29, 2023