Today’s readings: Ezekiel 18, 25-28; Philippians 2, 1-11; Matthew 21, 28-32

When religion and the way we live are two separate spheres in our life, there is always a discrepancy between what we say and do, between lip-service religiosity and behaviour. This discrepancy makes a parody of religion, which fails to be a locus of encounter with God and obstructs in us the authentic life.

Matthew’s story in today’s gospel speaks of two sons: the first, apparently good-willing but who ultimately fails to deliver; the second, at first reluctant but ultimately capable of changing his mind and letting himself be guided in God’s territory. Jesus in this text is extremely clear and harsh about those who think of themselves as holier than thou, but whose religion is a sham.

The issue here is who really are those who make their way into God’s kingdom. Belonging to God’s kingdom is not the same as belonging to the Church. Belonging to an institution like the Church can be regulated in some way or other by certain requisites. But belonging to God’s kingdom is a matter of attitude, vision of life, commitment.

For so long we thought that the Church and God’s kingdom were one and the same thing. As Jesus shows in the gospel, one can be out, canonically speaking, but actually in. He speaks of the tax collectors and prostitutes “who make their way into the kingdom” before those who canonically are eligible.

Eligibility to God’s kingdom is a question, as the prophet Ezekiel today suggests, of integrity, uprightness and honesty. Standing by what we are bombarded with daily in our public sphere, one can clearly judge that it is precisely the lack of these virtues that is sickening our society and our institutions, depicting our society as one beyond redemption.

I am positively sure that our society is not beyond redemption. The problem is that the big majority in this country are represented in today’s gospel by the second son, all goodwill and yet going his way, serving his own self-interest, and ignoring God’s voice. As the Benedictine Sister and internationally known writer Joan Chittister writes: “When we challenge nothing, everything goes unchallenged”.

We live in times when this country seems to be literally hijacked by gangs of corrupt people; by journalists, many of whom are of one colour or another and serve the truth depending on who is in power; by politicians, many of whom are only interested in feeding themselves; and by business people who are simply shortsighted, or rather blinded by their own self-interests.

We have a call to change the course of this country’s history

The daily feed of filth is sickening. We believe we can go all the way and listen only to ourselves and to what sounds reasonable. Seeking God’s voice and discerning His will nowadays sounds like an anachronism. It helps to give heed to prophets like Ezekiel in such situations: “When the upright man renounces his integrity, he dies; when the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live”.

We have a right to a different political class. We have a duty to safeguard the tradition that has formed us as a nation. As believers, we are all accountable for the distorted narrative of our nation that is presently prevailing, and we have a call to change the course of this country’s history.

The vision of a world where the will of God for creation and for humanity is the driving force is still possible and we need to recover it as the vision that completes – not distorts – the harmony around us and inside us.

Only wisdom makes us realise that living with integrity and standing upright in the face of evil is sanctity, not madness. Put simply, sanctity is attending daily to the calling inside us, discerning God’s guidance, and joyfully putting the common good above all other interests.

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