'Too Proud to Change'? by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today,' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.
Jesus was an amazing teacher and a fantastic storyteller. Today's Gospel is a prime example of His ability to craft a story using a common experience and simple images in order to teach the profound truths of our Christian faith.
A Father has two sons. He asks them both to do a certain task. One says "yes," but never does it. One says "No," but changes his mind and does it. Jesus asks: Which one did the Father's will? The answer is splendidly obvious. What a great teacher! The question then posed in the mind of the student is, naturally, which brother am I?
Jesus suggests that we are likely to be quite surprised with who makes it to heaven. He claims that sinners and tax collectors are entering the kingdom of God before the elders and the chief priests. Why? Because the former say "no" to God but then are willing to change and do the Father's will. In contrast, some religious leaders are too proud to change, to accept Christ and truly embrace His message. They have become self-righteous, thinking they already know the mind of God. The truth is that the humble inherit the kingdom of God, because they take responsibility for their sins and repent and because they accept that Jesus Christ was sent by our Heavenly Father and is indeed the way, the truth and the life. The humble conform their lives to God.
Which brother am I? We must ask ourselves this question every day. I know God has asked me to change a number of things in my life. A few of those requests stand out when I am being genuinely humble and prayerful: cut out a bad habit, develop a consistent prayer life, forgive a neighbor, end an unhealthy relationship, study the faith, refocus on my family or truly place God at the center of my life. Have I changed? Am I willing to change? Am I saying "yes" or "no" to God right now?
As a university chaplain, I am regularly inspired by the students. I find most college students firm in their convictions - religious or otherwise - but also open to change. When the Gospel way of life is presented clearly, charitably and consistently, they are willing to embrace it. The most powerful agents of change are the grace of God and the example of peers and adults who are living authentic Christian lives. When the truth and love of Christ are lived and preached, people want to share in them. The witness invites conversion. People want to live in union with God, experience the peace that He gives, live with conviction and work for eternal purposes.
Which brother am I? God wants me to change. The world, especially its young people, needs me to change. Am I too proud to change and live my life for Christ?
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