I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God gives us freedom to choose to follow His truth

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The readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time focus on the unseen and hidden areas of our hearts in which God actively works with the power of His word.

In the first reading, God articulates what is happening in the heart of the Jewish followers: "You say, 'The Lord's way is not fair!'" Thus, God surfaces the hidden attitudes of people called to follow His way to freedom. In effect, He answers by suggesting that His ways are fair and just, but their behavior isn't.

When the Jewish people followed God's law of truth, they discovered inner happiness and joy because the deepest hungers of their hearts were being nurtured with the truth. However, when they fell away from following God's ways, they suffered the loss of friendship with God.

Some then listened to the prophets calling them to repent and return to following the covenant, and thus they experienced union again with God. The loss of union wasn't God's fault, but the result of their choosing. The dynamics that took place in the silence of their hearts made all the difference in the world.

The memory of God's goodness in delivering them from Egypt, the hunger and thirst in the desert and the oppression of their enemies led them to reconsider their rebellious behavior and turn back to God.

In the second reading, Paul evokes the memory of Christ's victory on the cross as the hidden power source behind the changed behavior we witness in the first and third readings. Paul is aware that the rebellious human heart needs power from on high to change inner attitudes.

That power from on high is none other than Christ, who "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and coming in the human likeness; and found human in appearance. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Divine power overcomes sin in our lives. Divine love replaces our inner brokenness and rebellion with a desire to do God's will. Therefore, we shouldn't despair and turn against ourselves when we find our inner, hidden self, rebelling against God's will. No, Christ offers our hearts His attitude toward the Father and His kingdom. He wants to share His power over sin and death.

The power of Christ's victory over sin and death is the power that Christ offers to us. It's the power to conquer sin with the desire to obey the Father's will.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: "Why do I choose to face alone the clash between what the Father asks of me and my own inner brokenness? Why do I not humble myself, acknowledge my poverty and need of mercy and then come into a new freedom in following the will of the Father?"

In the Gospel, Jesus gives us another response to the Father's call to follow Him. Notice the absolute freedom the father offers his sons when inviting them to work in the vineyard. In the first case, the father asks his son, but the son insults him with his absolute refusal. The second son says "yes" to the invitation but never obeys. In both cases the father doesn't threaten. He simply invites his sons to participate in the harvest.

Serious and quiet reflection on the part of the first son allows remorse and a change of heart to rise and to bring him into freedom and conformity with his father's desires. You can imagine the father smiling when he sees his first son come into the vineyard with a changed attitude. You can also imagine that his heart was grieved that his second son rebelled against the invitation.

It isn't hard to see how this invitation plays out today. Even though we have the desire to follow the truth, we find ourselves confronting the issues of abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, racism, divorce and remarriage, and even embracing the "isms" of agnosticism and atheism in order to anesthetize us of all these tensions.

All of these subversions begin in the silence of the human heart, contemplating and weighing the call of God's word, on the one hand, and the indulgence of the flesh on the other. God has revealed His truth about His expectations of us, but He gives us complete freedom to choose.

Right now, this is where the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of hell are at war with each other. As uncomfortable as it is, it's also a glorious conflict because it will determine our future existence.

In the garden, Jesus faced this battle and rose to do battle and to win the victory on the cross. Right now we're in the garden with Jesus, wrestling with evil forces. Don't make the mistake of facing the battle alone. We're sure to fail. However, if we invite Him into the battle with us through daily prayer, repentance and meditating on the Scriptures and on the Church's teachings, we'll be filled with hope that the final victory belongs to Jesus, because He alone makes it possible. 

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