25 September 2020
25 Sep 2020

The works are concrete gestures of love

by  Gonzalo Arnáiz Álvarez, scj

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Last Sunday we saw that the Lord’s ways are right and stable, recognizing that so often His ways are not our ways. Today we can ask ourselves: are there guidelines or criteria to know if we are doing the right thing?

In the Gospels Jesus speaks of some criteria to indicate whether we are on the right path or not. In Mt 21:28-31 Jesus addresses the high priests and elders of the people, the highest elite members of Israelite society, those who by definition were closer to God and who had to adapt their lives to the norms of the Decalogue. Jesus gives them a clear and critical example, directly to those who have ears to hear. There is a character that says “yes” but does nothing. There is another character that says “no” but does it at the end. Words can lead totally to false attitude, as in the case of the second child. Words can involve real feelings, but they can change after they have been spoken out, because you realize that it is better to change your attitude than do what has been answered with a “no”.

Jesus positively evaluates the change of attitude of the first son and considers “obedient” the person who at the end acted according to the criteria of the father. The second son is the worker. He seems to be fine, but does not do what he was told. He is disobedient.

The criterion marked by Jesus is that of the “Works”. Works carried out in an attitude of obedience to the Father. Not “works” of a slave, but works of a “son.

Jesus turns to the religious elites and invites them to conversion.  To claim that sinners and prostitutes would precede them in the Kingdom was certainly a great provocation. Jesus clearly privileged those who were on the margins and unfits to become part of God’s people. Jesus’ words had no effect. They served to further tighten his relationship with the leaders of the people and this would have led him directly to the passion. The social structures of the people were untouchable. Prostitutes will always be prostitutes.

Prostitutes will precede us these words of Jesus are also addressed to us.. These are scandalous words, why? Probably because our Christian life is mediocre and rather individualistic. We are not a community that shines like the light on the mountain.  We may think that: “We are few and what’s more, the Gospel shows us a difficult path. In this way they will make sure that some of us leave”. The Gospel does not try to oppose difficult things.  It is about asking for conversion. It requires a change of attitude. It is a call to be sincere. The words of Paul (Philippians 2:3) “. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

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