26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sept. 25, 2011)

Sunday’s Gospel tells a simple story of two imperfect sons to illustrate the way of God’s kingdom. The “rebellious” son told his father to his face that he would not work for him. But afterwards he changed his mind and did what his father commanded him. The “good” son said he would work for his father, but didn’t carry through. He did his own pleasure contrary to his father’s will. Now who was really the good son? Both sons disobeyed their father; but one repented and then did what the father told him.

Now the key word here is repentance. Traditionally, the word means “to change course, to turn around.” But the word Jesus uses for “repentance” is different. It means, “to be ashamed of, regretful, to feel grief over something.”

In their own eyes, the Pharisees and scribes were unreflective true believers. Their thinking was: “We have nothing to be sorry about.” All the good deeds and pious shows of holiness were basically a waste of time when it came to entering the Kingdom.

On the other hand, tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes were sorry for their actions. They knew they were not being all they could be, that they were settling for less than the best. Any reflective human being intuitively knows that he or she often falls short of the mark.

Doing God’s will is not about how sterling our record is; it’s not about having a perfect life or church attendance record; it’s not about having enough people who can vouch for my good reputation. None of that matters, because it’s basically a lie. What does matter is the opposite (i.e., the real truth about ourselves): recognizing and being sorrowful for our lack of attentiveness at Mass, the people we’ve hurt, the selfish choices we’ve made. Recognizing the real truth about ourselves and being sorrowful that we’re not all we can be brings us right to the Door of the Kingdom! And there we find our Father waiting for us with open arms.

Be God’s smile for someone today!

herb yost reflections

Fr. Herb, C.S.C.

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