Two Ways (Mt 21:28-32)
2nd October 2017
In today’s Gospel we hear of two brothers. The first says no to his father’s instruction to work in the vineyard but later thinks better of it and goes off to work after all. The second initially says he will go but then does not. We have probably all been like both sons at times in our lives – maybe even the course of one day.
When God makes his will known to us, what prevents us from carrying it out? Here is a non-exhaustive list of attitudes that can prevent from carrying out God’s will: Fear of the sacrifice involved; pride in thinking our ways and our plans are best; stubbornness in sticking to our own ideas; lack of openness to change; laziness; desire for a life of comfort in which we can gratify our immediate needs and desires. We can each add to that list with our own personal attitudes and behaviours which either have or continue to stop us freely accepting all that God asks us to do. Thomas Kempis sums it up well in The Imitation of Christ: “One thing holds many back from spiritual advancement and earnest amendment, and that is the fear and dislike of the effort and difficulties involved in the struggle” (Book 1 – Chapter 25).
The second son said he would do what the father asked but did not do it. Perhaps he had good intentions and really thought he would carry out the work. But if we fall into this behaviour we can end up living a kind of ‘imaginary holiness’: reading the word of God but never letting it touch us; praying, and perhaps even saying ‘yes’ to God, but the prayer not bearing fruit in our concrete actions.
The first son, although at first uncooperative has, at least, a kind of ‘honest stubbornness’. Yet we don’t want to stubbornly say no to God but rather share our struggles with him; be honest about those areas of our lives in which we are struggling to accept his will and ask for the grace to say yes to all he asks of us. The first son did not want to go and work in the vineyard – and sometimes we don’t particularly want to do God’s will when seems difficult to us. But The Imitation continues:
“Yet those attain surpassing virtue who struggle bravely against the very things they find hardest and most repugnant to them. For a person profits most and gains most graces precisely in the area where the difficulties are greatest and require the most mortification”.
This is hard to hear but we need to trust that every day, the Lord is providing concrete opportunities for us to practice the virtues and grow in holiness. We can also ask the Lord to change our hearts, that we may truly desire to live in his will.
Our Lady, of course, shows the response of the perfect child of God. She is one who both hears the word of God and puts it into practice (Cf Lk 11:28). If there is any area of our life where we are struggling to accept God’s will or struggling to carry out what he has asked us to do, let us entrust the matter to Mary in our daily rosary and take courage that she is very near to us, strengthening us to fulfil the Lord’s will.
The recent visit of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Walsingham was a reminder of the calling we each have to offer prayer and sacrifice for all souls and of the importance of regular confession, especially on the first Saturdays. We would do well to reflect on the times we’ve been resistant to carrying out God’s will: when we’ve preferred our will to God’s will; preferred a life of comfort to one of sacrifice and service of others; preferred sin to virtue. Essentially, there are two ways: the way towards death in choosing our own will – and the way to life in choosing God’s will. The Lord, through the prophet Ezekial in today’s first reading, assures us that when we renounce the sins of our past life, the Lord offers us a fresh start and we ‘shall certainly live’ (Ezekial 18:28).
For more information about the First Saturdays Devotion visit the Walsingham website and click the link for the Five First Saturdays leaflet: