How do we know what is right or wrong? But even when we think we have a firm hand on morality, how then do we turn that into a consistent life ethic… a way of living each and every day in a manner that reflects our beliefs? These are difficult questions… but as Christians we turn to our scriptures for some answers.
The Word for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
This Sunday we open with Ezekiel. You may recall that we heard a passage from this same prophet a couple weeks ago. This week Ezekiel, our great prophet from the Babylonian Exile, has a stern warning for us. This passage comes from a time just before the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees the “writing on the wall” and is urging the people of Israel to reconsider what is fair in the eyes of the Lord, and do what is right and just. While Ezekiel’s message didn’t help the Israelites at that time, it does provide us with a valuable lesson today.
Our Psalm this week not only helps us draw the message of our readings together, but it also serves as an important counterbalance to those readings. Our reading from Ezekiel is quite clear on what behavior allows us to live or die in the sight of the Lord, but as good Catholics we must also remember that God is merciful. With God we have the ability to repent of our sins and be forgiven.
Our Gospel from Matthew this week has Jesus teaching a parable to the chief priests and elders. Jesus’ teaching authority is being called into question, so in response he gives us the Parable of the Two Sons. A father asks his two sons to go work in the vineyard. One says, “no” but later goes out to work. One says, “yes” then does not go out to work. Which of the two did the father’s will? The answer not only teaches a valuable lesson, but exposes the hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders. In the end, it is our actions, not our intentions, that speak the truth of our hearts.
Then there is our second reading… a continuation of our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Today’s passage, though not directly related to our topic of morality, does provide us with the key to unlocking its mystery. Paul teaches us to “do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory.” in other words, to put others needs before our own. This change of focus is what defines Christian morality and serves as the cornerstone of how we should approach life.
Many people look to the Church to tell them what is right or wrong. If only it was that simple. The context in which we live our lives is not black and white. Following up on our topic of penance and the examine of conscious from last week, we will spend this week and next week looking at Christian morality… providing us with the tools to determine right from wrong, and how we can use those tools to navigate through the gray areas between right and wrong. Our lives and our society provide many challenges, but the combination of God’s guidance and God’s mercy will bring us to his light.