Gospel reading for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 21:28-32
Two lessons stand out for me in this Gospel reading: 1) Jesus wants us to live authentically faithful lives, and 2) Jesus is persistent in His attempts to save us, even when we’re dense and set in our ways.
Jesus is disappointed with the religious leaders at the time – in their lack of faith and their unwillingness to believe in Him. He tells them that even the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before them. And He tells the parable of the two sons to illustrate His point.
While the tax collectors and the prostitutes did not make the most noble career choices (but given their life stories who knows how much choice they actually had), at least they didn’t pretend to be someone they were not. And when John the Baptist presented them with news of the coming of the Messiah, they changed their perspective and they believed. They knew they needed to be saved.
It is easy to forget we need God when we are comfortable and successful, so it makes sense that the chief priests and elders were resistant to accept the arrival of the Son of God. They were also deeply rooted in tradition, and Jesus’ teachings were radical. He has a way of turning our realities upside-down. Additionally, these leaders were living in a cloud of hypocritical holiness, which further hindered their ability to hear the good news. Their hypocrisy frustrated Jesus, yet he still went to great lengths to tell them His story. This particular interaction was just one of many attempts to convince them. He is relentless in reaching out, because He intensely and earnestly wants each one of us to believe in Him, to be free to love, and to spend eternity with Him.
Can you imagine the depths of Jesus’ pain when he continued to come across people He loved who didn’t believe Him? He tried so hard and in so many different ways. I can imagine Jesus thinking, “What more do I need to do? Why are you people so afraid to think differently? In front of your very eyes, I’ve walked on water, calmed a storm, healed the sick, raised the dead and given sight to the blind. And you still don’t believe that I am the Son of God? Really?”
For me, there is a direct connection between living authentically and maintaining strong faith. When I am not being true to myself, it usually means that I am too concerned with other people’s opinions of me. When I let that take control over me, then I am not free to be myself. And when I am not myself, my connection to God is weaker. God created each of us to be ourselves – who He wants us to be – not who we imagine other people want us to be.
So, the goal is to be authentic and faithful, and the two are closely intertwined. By believing in Him and prioritizing Him in our lives, we can’t help but be more truly ourselves. And when we are living authentically, it is much easier to hold on to our faith.