There was a case against a forty-five-year-old man in court. The judge asked him, “How old are you?” The man replied, “It is not a secret; everybody knows I am forty years old.” The judge removed his glasses, wiped his eyes, steered at the man for a few seconds and said, “But five years ago, you were also in this same court. When I asked you how old you were, you said forty. How is this possible? After five years you are still forty.” The man said, “I am a consistent man, Your Honor. Once I say I am forty, I will remain forty forever. You can rely on me.” Yes, there is a sense in which consistency is virtuous and desirable, but not in all cases.
Two Sundays ago, we talked about the first disciples of Jesus who left everything and followed Jesus. We added that most times, when we think or talk about what they gave up, we focus on the material things, the physical things they gave up; we forget the nonphysical things they gave up. One nonphysical thing they gave up was their point of view, their way of doing things. In place of their point of view, they accepted that of Jesus. That was the secret to their success. Thank God, they were not consistent with their point of view. Holding on to the same point of view at some point becomes dangerous.
In today’s Gospel passage, there were two sons. Their Father told the first, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” He said in reply, “I will not,” but afterward changed his mind and went. The man gave the same order to the second son, who replied, “Yes, sir,” but did not go. Jesus directed this parable to the chief priests and elders of the people. He asked them to judge who among the two sons did the will of his father. They all agreed, the first son.
Jesus interpreted the parable for them: Like the first son, who said, “No” to his father, Tax collectors and prostitutes, said “No” to God, by their profession. And just like the first son changed his mind and did what his father wanted, Tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus along with prostitutes, heard the good news, and they changed their opinion, they changed their points of view and started doing God’s will.
On the other hand, the chief priests, and the elders of the people, like the second son, said “Yes,” to God by their professions, but their way of life was not in line with the will of God. Jesus gave this parable in response to the attack of the chief priests and the elders of the people against him. Instead of praising God for the miracles Jesus performed, they were jealous; they saw him as a threat to their position of power. They remained consistent; they did not want to change their minds; they did not believe in Jesus. They were consistent; that was the source of their downfall.
Even though Jesus was God, he did not hold on to that position. The second reading today tells us that he gave up his position and submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will, even to the point of accepting death. He did not only accept death but also a shameful death on the cross. For this, God has highly exalted him and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
My dearly beloved in Christ? Are you consistent? Are you consistent in the right things? Remember, before his ascension, Jesus did not claim to have completed the job. He said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit to lead you to the complete truth.” How open are we to the Holy Spirit? Do we truly worship God, or do we worship Church and doctrine? Sometimes, we can be so consistent in our fidelity to the Church, that we do not hear when the Church begins to tell us, “My Dear Children, this is where the Holy Spirit is leading us now.”
According to Fr John Shea, “Consistent thinking, holding the same position now as we did earlier, has a high price tag. It often entails denying our participation in the river of life.” And the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “There is no such thing as being a Christian; there is only becoming a Christian.” None of us can claim to know it all, we all need daily reexamination of what we think we know. Christianity is not a destination; it is a journey.
May God grant us the grace to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.