Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2014)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
I once heard it said that, given the evidence at hand and the limitations of our human mind, it is surprising that we ever do anything right the first time in this life. I think, for instance of President George W. Bush. Back at his comfortable home in Texas, he is probably saying to himself, “it was a mistake to invade Iraq; the Sunnis and Shiites are still fighting each other as they have for centuries. We lost too many of our young and brave young men to call this a victory or even a good decision.” Considering the state of the world today, it would be nice to know that we could make up for all those miscalculations we have in our history.
I imagine it is true of most of us: as we reflect on our past life there are probably lots of decision we made that we wish we could change; alas, however, it is now too late. “Time and tide wait for no one.” I think it was Geoffrey Chaucer who first spoke those words.
Nonetheless, our life decisions are not set in steel or concrete. True, we may not always be able to radically change our past but we can still determine what the future will look like. Indeed, it may be said that we can determine the future by every mistake or every miscalculation we have made in the past.
The clue to making up for past mistakes lies in decision- making, in deciding that nothing is ever too late; there are ways to patch up the past. Of course, all this takes a little humility, admitting that we made a wrong turn or that we were too bullheaded, too headstrong for our own good.
All this seems to follow from two scripture readings for this Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary time; the clue phrase I would suggest is this: “It is never late to change your mind. The person who can change his mind can change the world. In the first reading, the wisdom teacher, the prophet Ezekiel, puts the issue of change into a moral context: “If the wicked person, turning from wickedness and does what is right he shall preserve is life.” The many of us who have celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation surely know the feeling of relief that accompanies a decision to put the past behind us, do a course correction and start over. This is the very foundation of the sacrament: the determination that we can start over.
In the gospel we find Jesus debating with the local scribes over the issue of a change of heart. He places it in the context of a story of two sons who are asked by their father to go into the fields and work. One gladly says “yes,” but never leaves for work. The second son initially is reluctant to leave but after thinking it over, changes his mind. Jesus quickly uses the story to publicly criticize the scribes for failing to notice their own narrow-mindedness in the teaching of God’s word. Jesus makes the point that even the most common sinners shall be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven ahead of them. And why? Simply because they were willing to change their lives and start over.
Again, as we mentioned above, only we can decide whether or not our past is set in concrete. God’s arms are always open and ready to welcome those who are willing to admit that no one is perfect, not even me!
The scriptures: Ezekiel 18: 25-28 • Philippians 2: 1-11 • Matthew 21: 28-32
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time