26th Sunday in Ordinary Time A20
Yes or no? That is the deceptively simple question at the core of today’s readings.
Yes or no? Is my life or your life a yes or a no to God’s invitation to the fullness of life?
The fact that we are here would indicate that we at least want our lives to be such. But does our presence here and the words we use to profess our faith match the lives we lead? That too is the nitty, gritty of today’s readings.
And when they do not always do so, what do we do? Do we acknowledge the “No” we spoken or acted upon and then repent and try again? Or do we seek to escape personal responsibility? The comedian Flip Wilson had a tag and gag line: “The devil made me do it.” Our excuse is generally more sophisticated, claiming genetics, cultural factors, economic or educational backgrounds, or parental issues for our sinful actions.
But today’s Scriptures do not give us that wiggle room!
Instead they underline free human choice. The past does not determine the future. And the present is always an opportunity for a change for the better. A new start is always possible with God. To proceed forward, enlightened but unencumbered by the baggage of the past, is the joyful freedom the mercy of God presents us.
However, the prophet and Jesus give a warning as well. It is always possible for the virtuous and the apparently religious to turn away and commit iniquity, to be so concerned with others’ faults and failings as to miss their own need for mercy. That was the problem for the chief priests and the elders of the people. They saw the response of others to John the Baptist, but in their self-righteous didn’t have the same response of seeking mercy. Therefore vigilance is also needed and attentiveness to those prophets among us who keep us in touch with the many ways God calls us to live the word with its challenge and its comfort.
Yes or no? Which is it?