racism and God’s will

i get to preside mass at our lady queen of heaven in tacoma and christ our hope in seattle this weekend. here are a few random homily notes from matthew 21: 28-32:

definitions for my simplified understandings are:

the vineyard = The Lord’s special relationship with God’s people

working in the kingdom = participating in self-giving service-love under God’s grace, guidance and help

the father’s will = to be in right relationship with ourselves, one another and God in love, peace, justice, and service

kingdom of God = God’s reign of healing and love for the universe. this plan is seen in glimpses now; ultimately realized in its fullness at the end of time.

here is the text:

( Jesus asked ) “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21: 28-32

jesus continues to address his teaching to the leaders of God’s people to encourage a change of heart and mind toward authentic service. those with hardened hearts reject this invitation; those with open hearts will be renewed and strengthened in their service. to work in special relationship with God (in the vineyard) is to be inspired by the Spirit to self-giving service-justice-love to others. how will leaders respond?

one aspect of the text is the difference between words and actions. it is one thing to talk about being in right relationship with God and others. it is another thing to act in justice-love in the dance with God and others in our world.

people who we label as “bad people” are having a change of heart before these leaders are. these known sinners are part of God’s reign too and experience God’s healing and love because of their change of hearts and minds. in this sense, they are greater than the “holy” leaders who have hardened hearts and closed minds. self righteousness clashes with God’s reign in our lives and in the world.

questions: where does my heart need healing and renewal? what is God’s will for my life right now and how do i respond? have i disregarded people as sinners thinking that i know their hearts? how far off are my words from my actions towards authentically loving my neighbor and God? how can we help our leaders have humble hearts and serve authentically in justice-love?

contemporary questions: can this gospel text from matthew serve as a lens to see racism in the world? what change of heart do i need to heal the prejudices that exist in me? there are many who say they want to end racism, but what are their actions? do these actions move us toward respect, healing and forgiveness that is based unity and love? are these actions consistent with God’s love for us? do our leaders help us see racism as evil that can inspire us to build a just society? are we attune to the Spirits help and guidance in our discussions and actions to be God’s instruments in healing racism’s effects in our community and world? are those who can label as “bad” in this area of racism entering the kingdom before those we see as “righteous”?

Prayer from page one of our lady queen of heaven’s website

Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other. We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another. We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society. We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person. Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us. Amen.

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