“Conversion as Ongoing Process” A Sunday Gospel Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time By Fr. BaltazarObico, OFM

Introduction: Einstein once said, “Everything has changed but our thinking. The mind is always the last to know. Life flows continuously but the mind lags behind. It holds on to past moments, so it cannot catch the new that is happening. Loyalty to the mind is foolish. Consistent thinking, holding the same position now as we did earlier, has a high price tag. The spiritual adage is: the mind makes a good servant but a poor master. Too often we cling to what we think that it keeps us from attuning to the rhythms of life. (John Shea) “Amen I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom before you.” Today’s Gospel seems to disturb our societal order and undermine the whole reason for being good, living justly and observing standards, if the tax collectors and sinners will be ahead of the righteous. A closer reflection of it however, says it is the ability to change one’s mind that Jesus emphasizes, an ability which the sinners have for they know their true status before God. Conversion in the Scriptures is primarily a change of mind. The word is metanoia.

Gospel.(Mt. 21:28-32) The parable of the two sons is peculiar to Matthew. It is an explanation to Jesus’ adversaries of why the gospel is eventually addressed to the sinners, the “just” having rejected it. It is a justification of the direction of the Gospel now to those who are despised, a new category of the poor. Jesus is actually addressing the high priests and elders. He wants to show those who are scandalized by his preference for sinners; that these are actually closer to salvation if they do penance than the people who considers them just. The targets of the parable then are those who close themselves against the Good news in the name of justice. Jesus gets them to know that God loves the rejected; they are capable of greater penance and obedience than the proud and self-sufficient. (B. Reid)

God did not decide at a definite moment of history to reject the Jews and choose the Gentiles. His salvific will is AT ALL TIMES UNIVERSAL. Not event the scribes or Jewish leaders are excluded from salvation. Their treatment of the Messiah simply meant that they lost the role of mediation that was hitherto theirs. The parable is crystal clear. The Jewish leaders are the people who said they will obey, and then did not. The tax collectors and harlots are those who said they would not but then have a change of mind and then a corresponding change of heart. The key to understanding is that it is really not praising anyone. Neither child had it all together. But the one who had the humility to change their minds and do what was asked was the exemplary one.

Word. Conversion is an ongoing process. We have to admit that on many occasions we promise to be faithful and have broken the same. How easy it is to say yes in the first fervor, but then how demanding it is to live a life of faithful obedience when one is committed in the long haul. But like a good marriage in which the fire of love burns less brightly but more hotly as the members fanned with every loving good deeds, so the infatuation in a disciple is solidified into a habit of being, as it is acted on day after day. Remember the renewal programs of the Church, the cursillo, life in the spirit seminar, the PREX, other regular retreats; how we feel we want to conquer the world by the new found strength! We know how slowly it dissipated. The yes is not something we pronounced only once but embraced anew each day. After years of acting out such transformative love, the words hardly even spoken as loving deeds say it all.