Free Will

10-01-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

Many of us live or work with people who seem to live in the past. Whenever they are with you, they seem to be frozen in time. They are waiting for some past time that was "bigger, brighter or shinier" than the present. They often fail to recognize that this nostalgic past that they wait again for was not perfect, that in fact it had its flaws, mistakes and wrongdoings in it. Indeed living in the past even spiritually is dangerous to one's health of mind, body and soul. All the readings today encourage us to change from the harmful ways of the past and live in good emotional and spiritual health during the present.

During the period of the Babylonian exile, the prophet Ezekiel told God's people again and again that they were responsible for their own actions. They did not accept their responsibility for their own behavior in their present situation and blamed their separation from God on their ancestors. They made excuses for their present behavior and blamed their problems on the sinfulness of the generations before them. Clearly and easily they blamed their bad faith and actions on some bygone era. Ezekiel, however, dramatically challenged them to get in the present time (some people call this mindfulness) and take responsibility for their own actions, to do what they knew was right regardless of past events.

Paul's message to the people who lived in Philippi also challenged them to live obediently in the present. The Philippians had the advantage of having Jesus as an example. They saw how fullness of living life came to Jesus because he was humble and obedient before God. Jesus clearly gave to them and also to us the example of living God's law oflove - to love one another more than ourselves.

In this gospel passage, Matthew asked the question about who would inherit the promises of God. Last week our gospel passage told us that we would inherit the Kingdom because of God's generosity, not due to ourselves. In this week's selection of the gospel, the passage shows us that we will live with God because of choices we make and actions we take. When a father wanted his two sons to work in the field, one said "no," but later changed his mind and went to the field to work. Also recall the other son said he would go, but never did. The parable shows us how God calls us to change our lives from saying "no" to saying "yes" by our actions of repentance. It is, in fact, far, far worse to be like the son who said "yes" but did nothing. To act this way would be like telling people that we are Christian and love God but not having our actions fit our words.

God gives us free will to choose. We can choose to say "yes," or we can choose to say "no." "Maybe" is not a possibility. Some among us will say "yes" right away and go to work in the field at once. Others of us say boldly "no," but change our minds and hearts and try to live God's command to love one another. Still others of us say "yes" but do nothing. We will "intend" or "mean to," but never get around to going.

Bear in mind that God shows us unconditional love and thus we are responsible for ourselves and our own actions. However, we believe that God with unconditional love, embraces us and our mistakes with mercy and pardon.