The gospel of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time searches out and challenges hypocrisy.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’
How often does my ‘yes’ decline and weaken and become a ‘no’?
Surely, and sadly, more often that my ‘no’ becomes a ‘yes’.
But the Lord speaks to challenge the weakness and transform the turning away into a turning back. And how great is that: that we are not left to be subject to our hypocrisies and self-deceptions, but are again and again urged back to walking in the foot-steps of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- What is it that helps people hear the Lord and respond generously to him?
- What is it that makes it harder for us to hear and respond?
In some parts of the tradition Mary Magdalene (pictured above in a painting by Jean-François Pierre Peyron in the collection of the Musée Granet, Aix en Provence) is seen as a reformed sinner, even a prostitute. More recently these attributions are seen as mis-readings of the scriptural account. For sure, though, she is brought to a new wholeness by Jesus, and in her ministry she communicates that wholeness to those around her, including the apostles. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.