Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32
We have five sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page for the desired one.
Fr. Thomas Oyode : “The Christian Mission and the Danger of Sloth”
Fr. Udochukwu Ibekwe : Hearing the Voice of the LOrd and Saying Yes.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke : What are your Actions? Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai : Be a Man of Integrity.
Fr. Paul Oredipe : Promise is really a debt – Actions Speak Louder than Words
Fr. Thomas Oyode
“The Christian Mission and the Danger of Sloth”
Today the Church celebrates the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This year’s theme focuses on pastoral care for internally displaced persons. Pope Francis’ message for this year’s celebration is titled “Like Jesus Christ, Forced to Flee. Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Internally Displaced Persons.” While the Holy Father’s message concerns internally displaced persons directly, he however, calls on all men and women to pay equal attention to every persons whose lives have been pushed to the fringes, living in loneliness and rejection as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is particularly instructive as the homilectic directory on today’s liturgy also invites us to reflect on our Christian commitment to social justice. As far as Catholic Social Teaching is concerned, we can not speak of social justice without talking about the promotion and protection of human dignity. An authentic pastoral care for migrants and displaced persons is an authentic expression of respect for the dignity of the human person.
As always, the Pope wants us to put aside every form of indifference and selfishness so that animated by the spirit of the gospel, we may move out of our comfort zones and reach out to the poorest of the poor, to the homeless, the jobless, the lonely, the depressed, the unloved and the forgotten. As a matter of fact, this is a responsibility for every human person but more of greater responsibility for us Christians. By our baptism and acceptance of the gospel, we have beeen called and sent., we have been given a mission. Just like Christ in the second reading (Phil. 2:1-11), we are expected to carry out our christian duties in obedience and humility. This is to be expressed in a commitment to serve the needs of others with a disposition of love and charity, not vain glory. Thus, we must ask ourselves every day of our lives: in what way is my life a mission? What is my response to the mission? Is my response a yes or a no?
In other words, we need to find for ourselves where we stand in today’s gospel where Jesus gives us the parable of the two sons. Am I the first son? Am I the second son? It can be said that many of us have said “yes” to God by various acts of faith and by our acceptance of baptism by which we have committed ourselves to doing God’s will. By this we give a religious assent, at least, to the mysteries that God has revealed in and through the Church.
However, as in the parable, a mere yes or no answer is never enough if we are to be seriously ready to do the will of God. There must be an actual and concrete expression of that which has been professed in concrete daily living. This is what made the difference between the first son and the second son., the fact that obedience is not judged by mere lips service but by an actual concrete life of work, dedication and commitment animated by love.
At this point, one cannot but remember St. John Henry Newman who made a distinction between notional assent and real assent. According to Newman’s distinction, it can be said that the second son’s assent is a notional assent. It is an assent of yes, a mere affirmation of faith, a mere expression of desire, without a corresponding resolution to commit oneself to doing the needful. On the other hand, a real assent is an assent of faith and obedience that transcends mere day dreaming, and includes with it a sincere desire to be committed to service and charity. This is the assent of the first son, this is the assent of doing God’s will. As today’s first reading (Ez. 18:25-28) tells us, the Lord would not judge us by our mere response of “yes” or “no” but by our commitment, dedication and perseverance in doing God’s will.
One of the obstacles to our Christian commitment to obeying God and doing his will is sloth which means laziness in the ordinary sense of the word. The danger of sloth is what we usually express with the words, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” In the religious sense, sloth is acedia, an indifference to our Christian duties and obligations. It is also seen in our poor attitude to work, our tendency to embrace less arduous tasks because we do not want to exert ourselves. St. Thomas Aquinas says it is a habitual tendency to neglect to do good, and it is evil in itself if it prevents man entirely from doing good. In other words, sloth is not the same thing as making good use of leisure time or taking out time to rest. It becomes slothful and sinful when the person entirely abandons a good for the purpose of preserving or enjoying his comfort. It is in this sense that it is a capital sin because it deprives us of the grace to serve God with a disposition of charity towards our neighbour’s good.
Let us therefore, avoid the danger of sloth, the lack of commitment to our Christian and civil responsibilities. Let us stop being day dreamers, let us push aside every form of procrastination and wishful thinking. There are many of us who dream and wish about what we could have done or what could have been done but never do anything ourselves. We have made and broken our resolutions to serve God and do good over and over again. We should wake up, take up our responsibilities and duties to our families with courage and charity. We must be ready to do the right thing if we must attain the desired change and transformation in our homes and in our country. We must be ready to make that sacrifice by overcoming the fear of being misunderstood or rejected if we truly want change. The question is, “are we ready to submit ourselves, to serve till the end like Christ who became obedient unto death?”
Mary, Mother of the Word Made Flesh, pray for us.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
BE A MAN OF INTEGRITY
The gospel reading today presents us with the parable of the two sons. In that parable the two sons represent all human persons while the vineyard stands for the world. The man says “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” We are called to work in God’s vineyard either as clerics or as lay faithful. We have a mandate to fulfill; Paul says in Eph.4:11-12 some as apostles, others as prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors; we are to build up the body of Christ. At creation, Gen.2:15, the Bible says the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Beloved, we have been placed in a garden. Where you are presently is your garden, cultivate it and keep it. In a garden no one is idle; therefore we must all work to build up the body of Christ.
Again, vineyard also stands for what is inside of us. We must cultivate our inner man. We must take care of our souls because our salvation depends on how best we are able to take care of our souls. The first reading says “when the wicked man turns away from his wickedness, he shall save his life.” One efficient way to take care of our souls is to turn away from sin, through baptism and sacramental confession. But if we refuse to take care of our souls; it says we shall die. Death here does not refer to physical death but eternal death. This is the worse form of death. Therefore, let us take care of our souls. Just as we are working to make ends meet we must also work to make the ends of our souls to meet.
The Gospel also invites us to follow the way of integrity. It invites us to match our deeds and our words. Action speaks louder than words. Words are from the lips, actions are from the heart. Matt 15:8 says “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”Beloved, integrity is words corresponding to action. Let your actions speak. In the parable the first son said no and eventually obeyed while the other said yes and disobeyed. Beloved, often times we said yes and we failed. We promised and we did not keep. Promise can never take the place of performance neither should fine words take the place of fine deeds. God prefers rude obedience to polite disobedience. Many of us are so polite but very rebellious. We all said yes on the day of our baptism, marriage and ordination. Many of us said yes to the oath of office either as a politician, lawyer, doctor, force man or a civil servant yet we did not live up to our commitment and so integrity suffers. We took vows and broke them. Eccl.5:4-7 says (When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it, because He takes no pleasure in fools. Fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.6Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, and do not protest to the temple messenger that your vow was a mistake. That would make God angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? For as many dreams bring futility, so do many words. Therefore, fear God.)
Lastly, the Tax collectors, Prostitutes and sinners such as; Matthew, Zacheaus, Mary Magdalene and many others represent the first son. They initially said no but upon Christ visitation they were converted. Thus, Jesus said to the people that they are making their way into heaven. While the Scribes, Pharisees and the Elders represent the second son. They said yes, they practiced their religious belief, they were always in the temple but did not believe in John the Baptist and they did not repent (Matt. 21:32). These people said yes but were not converted. Little wonder the scriptures says in Matt. 7:21 it is not all those who say Lord Lord that shall enter into the Kingdom of God. They began well but ended badly. It is better to begin badly and end well than to begin well and end badly. You will end well in Jesus name. God bless you!
Fr. Udochukwu Ibekwe
HEARING THE VOICE OF THE LORD AND SAYING YES
My Sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; and I Know them, and they follow me -Culled from Alleluia Verse
Hearing the voice of the Lord is very difficult in a noisy world like ours. In every kind of pollution the world is suffering from today, the more tensed and destructive, is the noise pollution. A world polluted by the noise of materialism, power, hate, corruption and other vices in their different degrees. A world that speaks, talks , acts without listening to the voice of God and what God has to say at every given circumstance. A world so noisy in the use of social media, whatsap, instgram, twitter etc, with fake pictures and fake analysis of the state of affairs, noisy mind thus building bad energies and refuses to say Yes to God in word and Deed. Today the Lord asks us to once more pause and make the choice of listening to His voice and saying Yes to His Call.
The Lord is the first caller, first He called us out of nothingness, even from the very beginning of the world and instilled in us the grace of listening so as to hear him calling through his commandments. He continues to call us to himself and expects us to listen to hear, and we cannot hear if we are noisy! The first reading from Ezekiel 18:25-28, gives us the resultant effects of choosing to listen to the Lord or not. When we listen to the voice of the Lord, and decide to follow him, we are indeed going to live. Consider someone standing at the railway and refuses to listen to the long term horning of the train; He is immediately crushed to death. God wants us to listen to him and turn our ears to Him so as to live. Like the train horning, we won’t accuse God of being unjust for we have every avenue to listen and hear the voice of God calling us to turn away from our evil ways. Remaining with Him is also the key, bearing in mind that it is not easy to follow the Lord, one must remain ardent in doing this, for when we lose sight of God’s love and abandon him for pleasure, we are also going to face the responsibilities of our actions.
We are confronted in today’s readings with the theme of making choices and hitherto facing the consequences of those choices. Ezekiel prophesies was at the time of the Babylonian exile where the people were undergoing great difficulties. The people are still under the assumption that they are being punished for their ancestors’ wrongdoing and have no personal responsibility or personal relationship with the Lord God; however, the prophet tells them that God is more than fair since each person will be dealt with individually, depending on his/her personal choice of action. He goes on to remind them that it is never too late to change one’s direction in regard to God and God’s will for their lives. What the needed was to listen to the Lord and obey His commandments.
The psalm builds on the thought of the Lord being a forgiving God Who not only has been generous in forgiving in the past, but forgets about the past sins and will redirect and guide a person who turns to God for new guidance and help. The Lord as the Chief Shepherd wants us to hear His voice, and not just hearing His voice but following Him, because He is the way, the truth and the Life and will always show the way to the repentant sinner.
St. Paul begins today’s Second Reading (Philippians 2:1-11) with giving the believers at Philippi some practical suggestions as to what attitude and actions should be paramount in their living out their faith. He mentions love, participation in the Spirit, compassion, mercy, being of the same mind, thinking of others more than self. Knowing that some of those abstract concepts might be hard to put into action, Paul presents a real-life, human example in Jesus looking into the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus, as the Son of God, could have remained forever in the presence of His Father, enjoying His rightful position as part of the Blessed Trinity. Yet, Jesus did not hold onto that prestigious place, but rather He emptied Himself, humbling Himself to be limited to the nature of a human being, with all the ramifications of living a human life: pain, suffering, interacting with others, and ultimately death. Jesus was willing to be totally obedient to His Father’s will, acting as a servant of and for others. Jesus went so far as not simply dying, but dying in the most excruciating act of self-giving – on a cross. This led to His being raised up from the dead and returned to His rightful place in heaven. St. Paul in His letter exhorts us against a self-imposed noise propelled by selfishness, hatred, envy, betrayal, unforgiveness, conceit and arrogance. These vices are found in a noisy soul that have preoccupied itself so much as not to listen to the voice of Love; thus like Christ, Paul tells us that we must empty the self and the ego, from unholy thoughts and actions and life that does not give glory to the name of Christ.
In the Gospel Matthew 21: 28-32, Jesus presents the parable of a Man and His two sons. This Man requested His sons to work in his Vine Yard, One responds affirmatively to the request, but later changes his mind and does not do what was asked of him. The other responds negatively, but similarly changes his mind and ends up fulfilling the parent’s bidding. Each had a change of heart and did the opposite of what he had originally said he was going to do.
As I reflect on these readings I realized that each of us is responsible for not only our words of choice, but also our actions. Centering my thoughts on the Gospel, I realized
that God respects our freedom of choice. God does not force us into acting one way or another. Yes, God asks us to do the divine will. Sometimes we say “yes” but do not fulfill our affirmative response. Other times we say “no” and later regret our response and do what is expected of us. Most often, our actions show where our real heart is. Yet, how much more Christ like it would be if we could respond affirmatively in both word and in action. We must mark the key words here “word and Action”. The first Son notwithstanding that He did the will of the father and must be praised for that, must not be our paradigm. This is because following the Lord involves a total Yes! Our words must go forth first and our actions must follow up our words. We must not always take God’s grace for granted as to say! “God should wait for me, after living out my life the way I want, I will come back to him for forgiveness” The opportunity we have now may be the last we have to say Yes and mean our Yes! God is ever more ready to listen to our voice of supplication when we call upon His name.
The Second Son is like any of us! Every now and then we see ourselves derailing from what God expects from us, we miss the mark God has set in place for us. We go to the Confession with a repentant heart, we listen to the Voice of God accepting us back and exhorting us to fan into flame the gift God has given us at the Confessional. He tells us not to go back to our past life. We respond Yes Lord, “…I pray for your forgiveness and by the help of your grace I will not sin again”. The question is How often have I said yes and how often have I put my yes behind my actions and proceed to sin against His divine Mercy? The Lord calls us today to say Yes! Our Salvation came through “the Great Yes of the Only Son of the Father” and the “Virgin Mother Mary responded Yes to the Voice of the Lord” and the Saints have in their varying circumstances said “Yes Lord I will take up my cross and follow you” and in each occasion we see the glory of God manifesting.
The Yes of our Politicians
We can liken the first Son to our politicians, who when they want to run for offices, claim to hear the voice of the people and say Yes! I will build Roads for You, Yes! I will provide employment opportunities, Yes! I will alleviate poverty, create jobs, provide security, rebuild our educational systems! Fight corruption. And as soon as they enter into offices they become lions and tigers, devouring in every ramification the people they swore to govern. Hence, what we see is a total decay of every sector of the society!, the poor are denied of the basic needs for survival, high rate of immorality, insecurity and disrespect for life and property!
The Yes of Our Religious Leaders
The second Son is like our many religious leaders, whose work is to say Yes, since a No action has been detected in our Political leaders. Our churches should then be the last hope of the common Man! What do we see today in our Churches and among ministers of God? Quest for power, slander, envy, quest for wealth and riches, quest for miracles, They ministers of God have repelled from the Yes promises they made to God to bring glory to the name of God, save their Souls and the souls of others.
The Yes of Marriages
Families today have continued to crumble and destroyed, because couples no longer listen to the words of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Marriages have become a mere drama that take place to fulfill all righteousness. If only Couples will once again meditate on the promises they proclaim before the priest and the people of God. In marriage the priest questions the couple about their freedom of choice, faithfulness to each other and acceptance and upbringing of Children. Each question is followed up by a Yes answer… I do…I do…. How often have these affirmations been considered and put into actions? What we see in marriages today is totally infidelity and disrespect for marital vows.
We can go on and on, recounting the different occasions we have always responded Yes and like the Second Son failed to keep to our vows to the Lord. Our yes to the Lord must flow out to our neigbours in Love and love is the greatest Yes. Jesus truly is our role model, our Master. He could have said “No” to the will of His Father and remained in His place in heaven. Yet, lovingly, obediently, humbly, Jesus said “yes.” Jesus realized the full implications of His responding affirmatively: He would have to take on the role of a servant – humbly limiting Himself for the sake of others. He knew how important His decision and actions were for salvation of all people. He thought more of others than of Himself. He consciously made a choice, with full knowledge of what that choice entailed. The Good News of today’s reading is that we can get back on the right path, heading more fully back to the Lord Jesus. God is giving us yet another chance to get back on target.
Can I think of a time when I said “yes” to God and yet did not do what I said I would? Are there times when I have turned my back to God and later changed my mind and sought to be more in line with God? How often have I not kept my promises to the Lord, to my friend, brother or Sister? How often have I betrayed the trust people gave me in my work place, in my home etc.
O Lord! “All that you have done to us, you have done with true judgment, for we have sinned against you and not obeyed your commandments. But give glory to your name, and deal with us according to the bounty of your Mercy”. Amen
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
WHAT ARE YOUR ACTIONS?
For the people of Israel, God was their surest immunity from any form of predicament such as famine, bondage, and so on. This gave them pride amongst other nations. Imagine the confidence of a man who applied for a job in a company where his father is the Head of the Human Relations Department! The thought that only 10 applicants will be considered out of 105 that applied will not scare him. As shocked as he will be if he doesn’t get the job was how shocked the Israelites were after the fall of Jerusalem and they were taken into exile. They fell into despair and blamed their condition on their forefathers and even on God himself.
The first reading of today is part of Ezekiel’s response to the people. The theme of Ezekiel’s entire message was Personal Responsibility for Sin. The exilic experience of the Israelites is not as a result of the failure of their forefathers or the hatred of God towards them but as a result of their actions and inactions against God’s commandments. Relying so much on their heritage as God’s own people, they became wayward in their behaviours. They assumed that provided they remain faithful in performing religious rituals, they could give in to licentiousness.
Sometimes, we too fall into same situation. If you consider how religious people are in Churches on Sundays and how callous they act towards others during the week, it gives the impression that they think that God is only concerned about their presence, words, and gestures in the Church but is blindfolded or uninterested about whatever they do outside the Church. That explains why each time a sermon/homily is delivered that attempts to permeate the temporal order with the spirit of the gospel, some people do not receive it such with much cheers and admiration as they would a prosperity gospel.
Neither religion nor denomination can save us but our cooperation with the grace of God that is concretely manifested in our dealings with others. Today, God speaking through prophet Ezekiel, says to us that righteousness is defined by how we act towards others. When a man goes to Church on Sunday and acts uncharitably thereafter to his neigbhour, he is a righteous man who has turned away from his righteousness and has committed iniquity. The truth is we are more induced and defined by what we do than by what we say. That is why actions speaks louder than voice.
When we understand and accept this truth, we come to see the need for personal conversion. If the evil in the world is perpetrated by only those who do not go to Church, then the world would have long been heaven-on-earth. The gospel reading gives us a parable that describes two major attitudes towards Christianity. The first son said he will go but didn’t; the second said he will not go but later went. We will miss the entire message if we begin to argue whether it is better to say Yes first or to say NO first to an instruction. What Jesus was simply pointing out here is the fact that our actions attract God’s attention far more than our words. Meaning that we pray more by the way we act towards others than by what we say and do in the Church. Until our relationship with God opens our eyes to see God in those around us, we are not yet prayerful.
This does not mean that going to Church is of no relevance or interest to God. If we must authentically be like-Christ, we must first learn who Christ is and experience Him personally; if not, our witnessing becomes false testimony. Evangelization is not only acting like Christ towards others but also bringing them into the community of faith for on-going faith formation. Therefore, the gathering of believers remains the springboard for evangelization.
In the second reading, St. Paul urges us to do nothing out of selfish ambition. Such actions negate love. When he asked us to humbly count others better than ourselves, he is encouraging us to root out of ourselves all traces of envy, jealousy, gossip character assassination and other attitudes that is geared towards using others as stepping stones to rise. See, the parable in today’s gospel was told to the Chief priests and the elders of the people in condemnation of their sycophancy. Position is not a sign of holiness neither does it guarantee salvation. No doubt, position attracts human recognition; but of what use is that if we lose God’s recognition? Any exaltation that is malicious gotten is bound to end in disgrace.
St. Francis de Sales says “always be impartial and just in your deeds. Put yourself into your neighbour’s place and him in yours, and then you will judge fairly…”
Beloved, the liturgy of today sets a huge project before us: to use our religiosity to influence or boost our life in the society! No doubt, each of us are guilty of some level of rupture between life in the Church and life outside the Church. Therefore, conversion becomes our collective project to be carried out individually.
It is the desire for this conversion that fills the hearts of the psalmist when he pleaded that God should make him know His ways, teach him His paths and forgive him his sins. This project is challenging and may seem impossible. We may try and fail but then let us remember that our God is compassionate. He does not give up on us. So, let us not give up on ourselves; let our YES to God be consistent and concrete. *God Bless You!*
Fr. Paul Oredipe
PROMISE IS REALLY A DEBT – ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Song: He has promised, He will never fail. I will follow him, I will follow him. He has promised, He will never fail. His faithfulness is forever sure. His faithfulness is forever more.
Song: Wherever you go, whatever you say, do not say yes when you mean to say no.
The parable in today’s Gospel is one with which all of us can readily identify. As individual and groups, we make promises and we break them. As we examine ourselves, we can find examples of ways in which we have behaved like both the sons we have just heard about, through the ups and downs of life.
Promises, promises! We deal with promises all the time. Or it might be more accurate to say that we deal with broken promises all the time. Even today, with modern means of communication, we have many broken promises. Network is the scapegoat we put the blame on.
When Jesus told this story to the Jews who were listening to Him, an extraordinary event in His life had just taken place: His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is quite probable that Jesus told this parable two days after that event, and thus only three days before his death. This fact is very significant in helping us to understand the meaning of the words Christ addressed to the Jews at that moment.
Jesus relates the story of the man with two sons – neither of whom can be taken at his word. One promised to work in the vineyard and did not go; and the other said “No” and later went to the vineyard. Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders, to those who have said “Yes” to God’s call. Jesus tells them that they have said yes, but when John the Baptist came as a man of God calling people to conversion and change, they would not listen or do anything.
On the other hand, the tax collectors and the prostitutes who were not known for their faith, responded to John’s call. “the tax collectors and harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you” (Mt. 21:31). Why? Because the self-satisfied religious leaders refuse to see any need for change and believe, in effect, that there is nothing further God could possibly have to tell them. But, the tax collectors and social-outcast prostitutes are recognizing the need for radical change in their lives and are working at it.
Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and elders, challenging the Pharisees in their formalism and the Sadducees in their pretended devotion. These were people who publicly said “yes” to God. But Our Lord says to them “you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did.” It is the people who seem to be saying “no” to God in their lifestyle who, at the moment of choice, can opt for God’s kingdom. Like the son who repented of his evil behavior towards his father, the tax collectors (including Matthew himself) and the harlots changed their behavior. The former renounced the allure and attraction of money, and the latter fled the pleasures of the flesh.
Jesus is making a crucial point with them then and with us now about their and our relationship with God. It is not what you say, not what you promise, not your good intentions that matter most. Actions speak louder than words. Far better to move from bad intentions to positive action than to remain locked into your good intentions and no actions. In fact, what we do is much more important than what we say.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is a lesson in repentance. With this parable, Christ shows us that if we repent we can follow the will of the Father by attraction of love. God is the Father who loves and invites to accept his love.
Repentance is the key to “qualifying” for entrance into the kingdom. You stumble, you fall, you refuse, you hedge, you shift, you fail, but God our Father is always there, ready to redeem your life situation, if only you will repent. Repentance takes you beyond good intentions. Repentance is the means of our actually becoming the person God wants us to be.
God is asking you to transform your very life into an ongoing expression of His Love. You are called to be that someone who performs the miracle of doing God’s will.
Doing God’s will requires an act of our human will. We have the help of the Holy Spirit to keep us moving towards salvation. We know that the victory has already been won by Christ. Because Jesus was truly human as well as truly divine. His life shows us that total human commitment to the divine will is possible. We have full images and concrete examples of the effects of obedience to God’s will to inspire us.
In our Lord Jesus Christ there was not “Yes and No” but in Him is always “Yes” As Paul declares: “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, that is, by me and by Sylvanus and Timothy, was never Yes-and-No; his nature is all Yes. For in him is found the Yes to all God’s promise and therefore it is ‘through him’ that we answer ‘Amen’ to give praise to God.” (2 Cor. 1:19 & 20)
Jesus warns us not only from a religiousness empty, cold and formal that consumes itself in external practices but also invites us to cultivate a deep faith and a genuine filial relationship with God firmly rooted in the love that welcomes, listens, and humbly obeys.
In humility and obedience, Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father, died on the cross for His brothers and sisters – for us – and has redeemed us from our pride and stubbornness.
Our Lady’s acceptance of God’s will led her both to say “yes” and to do what God asked. The results were astonishing. The world’s salvation was advanced as Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary found complete fulfillment in her role. The Virgin Mary with her “yes” made Jesus. Her “Fiat” gave flesh to the Word of God. She was rewarded at the close of her earthly life with the eternal vision of her Son’s glory in place of the grave.
The obedience of the saints and of contemporary Christians in difficult circumstances has led them to do with courage, happiness and peace what we so often find dauntingly difficult and demanding. Notice that an unfashionable word has crept in: OBEDIENCE. Doing what God tells us. We live in a disobedient world where we resent anything that constricts our freedom.
Yet the second reading today opens up a new perspective on obedience. Saint Paul says, “in your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus…” The Son’s obedience to the Father led him to accept death on a cross. But “God raised him on high and gave him the name which is above all other names”. Jesus, the obedient servant, perfectly fulfilling the Father’s will, is acclaimed as Christ the Lord.
The readings today invite us to accept a challenging paradox. In the words of the Catechism: The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’ (CCC 1733). By accepting and doing God’s will, we gain freedom and play our part in the advancement of God’s kingdom. By refusing God, we take the huge risk that we will get into habits that could be eternally fatal. But we must be careful that we do not say “yes” and do nothing.
The greatest barrier to the coming of the Kingdom of God is set up by those who give it lip service but do nothing about it, the empty talkers.
In his conclusion to the sermon on the mount, Jesus’ choice of words makes it perfectly clear. “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
The time in which we live has been called by many names. A few years ago, a philosopher suggested a name that never took hold, yet had the ring of truth to it. “We should call it the ‘Era of Yes and No,'” he wrote: “This is the Age of equivocation, the time of indecision. The answer we get to nearly every important question is both “Yes” and “No”. The attitude toward nearly every significant proposal is both affirmative and negative. We live Jekyll-and-Hyde lives in a schizoid world.” Everywhere, but nowhere.
But God said “Yes” to man before man ever had a chance to say “No” to Him. And no matter how often we reject Him, there is always an answering “Yes” that offers our redemption. For as long as we live, there is the possibility of change. We need to remember this. God is there like the father in the parable – waiting, not condemning, just waiting and hoping for the change of heart. The father is there knowing that all can change.
Our God is a patient God and a waiting God – waiting for our response, our answer to God’s call. And when we fail – no matter how that might be – God is waiting again, waiting for another try on our part. We grow impatient, we grow angry – even with ourselves, but we celebrate today the God who patiently waits for us, for our more generous response.
“Whoever says, ‘I have come to know Jesus,’ but does not obey His commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: whoever says, ‘I abide in Him,’ ought to walk just as He walked.” [1 John. 1:3-6]
The test of our allegiance to Christ is in keeping the promises that we have made and accepting God’s will whatever it may be. St James tells us: “You must do what the word tells you and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.” (James 1:22) To do the will of God the Father does not mean just performing religious practices, but to practice the commandment of love towards our neighbour.
Promises can never take the place of performance, and fine words can never be a substitute for fine deeds. Promise is really a debt. Actions speak louder than words.
As the song says: “Wherever you go, whatever you say, do not say yes when you mean to say no.” Loving obedience to God is liberating, it is freedom, because his command is not an imposition of an arbitrary and capricious God, but a word (logos) with which lovingly He reveals his heart and our future.
In Matthew 5: 33-37 we read: “Again, you have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath, but must fulfill your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One.”
Also James 5:12 teaches us: “Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no’. Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement.”
My dear brothers and sisters, we thank God who has fulfilled His promise. Our gathering today is but one sign of that fulfillment. We pray that together with Him, we all will keep our promises to God always.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit remain with us all. Amen.
Song: He has promised, He will never fail. I will follow him, I will follow him. He has promised, He will never fail. His faithfulness is forever sure. His faithfulness is forever more.