26th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 27 September 2020
Mass Readings: I: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Responsorial: Psalm 25; II: Philippians 2: 1- 5; Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32
TESTS! Most of us generally would not be excited or happy if told we needed to be tested. Whether it were a test of knowledge (say Algebra..No Thank you!). Or a test for skill, perhaps for your drivers license renewal, these would not be something most people would rush in which to participate. If the subject was one in which you were comfortable and skilled then it could be a welcomed experience. It could offer an opportunity to show your talents. But generally tests are not something for us.
Jesus, ever the Master Teacher, had no problem testing His followers or those who opposed Him. Our Gospel today begins with Jesus asking: “What is your opinion?” Jesus did not hesitate to test. But our Lord also was willing to be tested. In the wilderness, with His disciples, the hungry multitudes or those who opposed Him, Jesus took His test with courage and grace.
For us taking tests is not usually seen as an opportunity of courage and grace. They are more something we would prefer to avoid. OR.. give to others.
It is far easier to apply our favorite tests to others. Especially if it concerns matter in which our convictions are strong. Matters of faith and religious practices (or lack there of). Family…many family members have clear tests of how other members of the clan should behave and act. Work… supervisors, co-workers, customers or clients all are worthy of being evaluated. And, of course POLITICS! Is this person conservative or liberal? Are they credible? Indeed applying these litmus tests of life TO OTHERS is usually a matter of ease and readiness.
It is necessary is that we be ready to test, in the love of God, others AND ourselves in honest courageous discernment. TESTS, the Taking and Giving are a part of life. [Note: tests, discernment are not the same as judging].
The Bible readings we share today give us a powerful lesson on the choices, the tests, the discernments of life. Ezekiel, the prophet and Jesus, in the Gospel speak of this reality. We make choices, discern to do what is right or wrong. We also, by God’s grace, recognize the need of “changing the answer”, i.e., repenting when we realize a wrong choice has been made.
But the facing of these tests, these discernments is not as easy as we may like. In the realm of politics, for example, these litmus tests, these discernments are, by many, boiled down to one subject. The crucial matter of abortion is, for many THE ONLY litmus test of support or opposition. IF a candidate says the right words to their hoped for supporters about the subject then many will not bother with any further consideration, even if the practices and answers defy the truth.
Whatever the test subject, whether it be for others or ourself, the Word of God provides abundant guidance to faithfully grow through the tests and discernments of life. In the Psalm for today we find the first essential step:
PRAY: ” YOUR ways, O Lord, make known to me, teach me YOUR paths.” From Psalm 25, our responsorial for today. The emphasis are mine.
LISTEN: And from the Epistle the Holy Spirit directs us to look for:
Encouragement in Christ ~ Does this decision, this person, action bring encouragement, a clearer relationship IN CHRIST?
Solace in Love ~ Is there the compassion, a greater strength of GOD’s love?
Participation in the Spirit ~ Does this action, answer, person bring greater participation in the Spirit of God? Or of self? Ego? Who is glorified?
Compassion and mercy ~ Does the answer, discernment I am following build compassion and mercy? Or does it foster division and judgment?
Being of the same mind, having the same love; In full accord, of the same mind ~ Is there a growing unity of faith and understanding or an increase of the “them vs. us” strife so popular today?
NOTHING from selfishness or conceit ~ Is there an attitude of ego and “I am the only one who can do this? Or is there the building of…community?
In humility consider others better ~ Does the answer I see nurture humility and a respect for the worth of others or does it lead further up onto a pedestal of exclusiveness reeking of arrogance?
HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU WHICH WAS IN CHRIST JESUS. Will the answers I choose help myself and others better grow in the self-giving love of Jesus? Will God be glorified?
These holy litmus papers will enable us to honestly discern in ourselves whether or not we are faithfully growing in Christ. These holy litmus tests will enable us to take the challenges we face in the church and discern, as the people of God, the graces of the Holy Spirit in which we are in need. And as we face the extraordinary tests of this election season we can prayerfully, hopefully realize that we need to grow beyond a single litmus test that we may better understand the fuller, more honest character of a candidate or an issue.
We are facing many tests, many discernments in this season of life. May we, together, allow the mind of Christ to show us the truth that will make us free to be of one heart in Christ. May we realize we are being called beyond the divisions and destructions and egos of the devil and that we are being called to be one people in God through Christ. We are people in the world, but not of it. The Kingdom of God can never be confined to a political, religious or idealogical group or label. The tests we SHARE are calling us to seek first…CHRIST.