A Reflection on Matthew's Gospel 21:28-32
We live in different degrees of unreality. Clear evidence of this can be seen in the whole money market in the world today. There is panic because the unreal bubble seems to have burst. That unreal bubble was created by people living beyond their means. It was created by the credit card culture where real money didn’t seem to actually exist. It was created by easy borrowing. Perhaps it was created by greed. Unreality can be a great place to live for a while. It is the place of the good intentions. It can be the place of extravagance. It can be the place where responsibility cannot live. Then the bubble bursts. The bubble must burst because unreality cannot last. When the bubble bursts all you are left with is reality – the thing that we have tried to avoid and discredit. Reality then can be hard and it can be painful.
In the gospel today there is the tension between reality and unreality. The first son was real. When he was asked to go into the vineyard his first reaction was to say no. Then he thought better of it and he went. He probably thought about his relationship with his father and his need to work. He went. The second son was living in unreality. He had the good intention. I’m sure when his father asked him he fully intended to go. However he probably had little sense of responsibility – something may have distracted him. He never made it to work. When we live in unreality we become untrue to ourselves and untrue to those around us.
After this little parable Jesus makes a number of very strong and even shocking statements. He told the religious leaders around him – you are living in unreality. The public sinners – the tax collectors and prostitutes – are closer to God. He could make this statement because he recognised that the tax collectors and sinners were true. They lived in the reality of who they were. They were not denying their sinfulness and so they were open to conversion. They were open to changing their ways and so becoming closer to God. The religious leaders were untrue. They were saying one thing but doing another. They had created a cosy bubble of unreality around themselves. In that bubble they did not even acknowledge the truth – the truth of John the Baptist. We can fool ourselves in unreality. However it is a very very insecure and unstable place to live. It is not healthy and it cannot last.
So how can we live in reality – the reality that we often seem to try so hard to avoid? Again the gospel reveals one thing that we need to do. We need to be honest about ourselves – be true about the reality of who we are. The reality of the person we truly are is the person that God created. The unreality is the person that we are trying to create. We need also to be true about our circumstances in life. We need to be able to answer what really matters in life. What do we really need? The answer to this question can control our greed. The answer to this question can help us to live within our means. The answer to this question makes us responsible. For too long we have been carried away into unreality. Money and extravagant living seems to have become a god. The truth is that there is only one God and everything else passes away.
All of this may sound negative as if the truth and acknowledging the truth was going to diminish us in some way. Yes it can be hard to admit the truth especially if we have made bad choices – if greed and selfishness have driven us. However it is only when we live the truth that we will be free. Pope Benedict in Sardinia a couple of weeks ago talking to young people said;
Jesus said 'The truth will make you free', yet the modern world preaches the opposite: that freedom will make you true.
Freedom without truth makes us at best irresponsible and at worst in a strange way slaves to greed and selfishness. In these times of uncertainty let us trust truth because truth is real. When we live in the truth we can be secure and we can decide to be happy.
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25th April 2017 I Hope You Dance
21st March 2017 From Darkness to Dawn
27th October 2016 The Bright Field
27th June 2016 The Enemy Within
31st May 2016 The Little Way to The Almighty
25th January 2016 Love Immeasurable
11th November 2015 Letting Go
21st May 2015 The Gift of Loss
6th May 2015 Walls
24th November 2014 Leaning into Winter
24th October 2014 Crossing the Road
25th June 2014 Fetters of the Soul
30th April 2014 The Power of Gratitude
10th March 2014 The Darkling Thrush
11th February 2014 Spring
10th February 2014 Masks
3rd February 2014 Dancing in the Wind
21st January 2014 Chains of nostalgia
13th January 2014 Forgiving wrongs darker than death or night
7th January 2014 Singing out Loud
17th December 2013 CHRISTMAS FOUND
9th December 2013 Withering into the Truth
2nd December 2013 The Celtic Prayer Garden
25th November 2013 Missing Dates
18th November 2013 NEARER GOD’S HEART
12th November 2013 Night
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25th November 2009 Our Poverty
1st September 2009 Which of the two tigers will win the fight?
1st June 2009 Be your own role model
25th May 2009 The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
18th May 2009 Power of the real presence
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30th March 2009 The Long Walk to Freedom
23rd March 2009 Become a Friend
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12th January 2009 Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
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8th December 2008 Am I at home when the doorbell rings?
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10th November 2008 A Homily for The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – 9th November 2008
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20th October 2008 The following is an extract from a talk given by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata in Zambia in Africa, to the synod of Bishops being held in Rome this month.
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6th October 2008 A Reflection on Matthew's Gospel 21:28-32
29th September 2008 The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII