Isaiah 5: 1-7 – Philippians 4: 6-9 – Matthew 21: 33-43
I believe we have to give some credit to Saint Luke as he put together his account of the ministry of Jesus and composed his presentation of the Gospel. He did not hesitate to include some very shocking statements of Jesus such as telling the self-righteous leaders such as the Pharisees, that tax-collectors and prostitutes would be saved. Why? These persons were willing to listen to his word and repent of their lives.
This can be shocking to us as well. Jesus was looking to what could be considered the “low-life” of society and finding there a spirit of repentance and a humble recognition of failure rather than self-righteous smugness. To be honest, we may well be like the leaders, and wonder why he was wasting his time with these people. After all, what do they know by comparison with the learned leaders? It may well be that we, like them, are made uncomfortable by being so caught up in the conviction of how God ought to deal with us that we do not truly listen to what Jesus says and act upon it.
An appropriate response to God speaking to us today is found in the writing of Saint Paul. Our own smugness, the thinking that leads us to rejecting the blunt statements of Jesus, comes from the idea that before God we are better than others, that there are some others who are less than us.
But we might react and say that this is not true. Give it some thought. Every time we allow prejudice to exist in our mind, we think that we are better that the victim of that prejudice.
Every time we are envious or jealous of someone else, we actually feel that what they are or have ought to be ours. Every time we think revengeful or hateful thoughts about another, we are actually thinking that it is right to act against them because I am better than they are.. So very much of what might trouble us, whether as a spouse or family or neighbor or co-worker, or what troubles us with our country or between nations, stems from just these very attitudes and ideas.
It is precisely to this that Saint Pail states that our attitude is to be that of Christ. Let everyone think that the other is superior. Then there is no one who is lowly. There are no “dregs” of society unworthy of consideration. Treat everyone as being better then there is no one who is worse or less than oneself. Have the attitude of Christ, the one who though equal to God was willing to humble himself and take on our flesh. Christ was willing obediently to accept death, even death on the cross. Christ was willing to associate with repentant tax collectors, prostitutes, and the like.
Difficult as this may seem, as shocking as it may even be, it will be in assuming the attitude of Christ, and in no other way, that we continue the ministry of Jesus told to us in the Gospels, the ministry of making known our good and gracious god