September 25, 2011 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
You are free to change your mind. That’s one lesson we learn from the Scripture readings for today. In fact, the ability to consider and then make a choice is one of the key differences between humans and other creatures. But when you make a choice, it is not necessarily final. You can indeed change your mind.
That ability is evident in today’s Gospel, the Parable of the Two Sons. The first son refused to go and work in his father’s vineyard, but then changed his mind and went. The second readily assented to head for the vineyard, but never got showed up. Each of them changed his mind so his actions did not agree with his earlier words.
In this parable, Jesus does not directly state what consequences came to the two brothers for their decisions. After all, a parable is a brief story to illustrate a point, not an extended narrative. But he did make a wider application of the message. He likened the tax collectors and the prostitutes – the dregs of society – to the first son. Their disreputable lives seemed to directly contradict the Father’s commandments for holy living. But like the son who had said “No” and then to work in the vineyard, they responded with repentance to the preaching of St. John the Baptist and turned to God.
On the other hand, the religious leadership seemed to be models of holy living, like the son who agreed to work in the vineyard. But their pride kept them from the due contrition they needed when they heard the Baptist and saw what sort of people came to him. They never arrived at the vineyard of repentance. And a new relationship with God is necessary to enter his kingdom.
Jesus used this parable to illustrate the teaching of the prophet Ezekiel, who in the First Reading dealt with changing one’s mind and its consequences. If one who has been virtuous begins to commit evil, his actions will bring the consequence of death. Nevertheless, if that person turns from his wickedness – changes his mind – and again begins live righteously, he shall not experience the final death that his sinful actions deserved.
Of course, for most of us, it’s hard to keep from changing our mind. We find that temptations are hard to resist, yet we know we should choose the right thing. For many, it seems our intentions flip back and forth between the right action and the attractive sin. We need the grace of God to become steadfast, growing in the right direction.
That’s why St. Paul wrote to the Philippians for them to “have the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus,” who was willing to give up the glory that he had with the Father in heaven and become man, and even to die on the cross for our benefit.
Christians – those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord – are called to live in the same way. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” That’s what it means to have the mind of Christ.
And if we have “the same attitude,” humbly looking out for others’ interests, what effect will it have on our lives? It will change the way we view our time, our talent, and our treasure, and the way we use them, as well. And to make sure we don’t change our minds in some fickle fashion, we’ll write down a commitment to use them for God’s glory and our neighbor’s welfare and then follow through.