27 September 2014

THE ENDGAME MATTERS

XXVI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
ezekiel 18:25-28; philippians 2:1-11; matthew 21:28-32

last sunday at the asian games, india’s jitu rai was on target for a gold in the 10m pistol event. after the tenth round, he was tied with kim cheongyong. then, while preparing for his next shot, the audience’s clapping distracted him; he scored just 7.8 points. rai, the world no. 1, finished only fifth. his near-perfect shooting in the previous rounds and the gold in the 50m pistol (won the previous day) counted for nothing. the endgame mattered, and rai did not deliver.
for kuwait’s abdullah al muzayen, it was the reverse. in the squash final, he was down two games and a few points away from defeat. he played brilliantly to win that game, the next two,  and the gold. the endgame mattered, and al muzayen came through.

what true of sport is true of life and the spiritual life: the endgame matters. 
in the gospel, after narrating the parable of the two sons, JESUS is explicit that tax collectors and prostitutes—those the religious leaders considered transgressors of the law—were entering the kingdom of GOD before themselves. JESUS compares these sinners to the first son; they rebelled initially but repented when they heard john’s exhortation. the chief priests and elders are like the second son; they committed themselves to do GOD’s will but did not. JESUS implies that if they fail to repent, they will be left out of the kingdom.
it might seem outrageous! but the first reading from ezekiel emphasises that, for GOD, what matters a person’s state at the end of his/her life: if a wicked person turns away «from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live.» 

GOD is concerned about our present relationship with him. as far as the past goes, GOD has a very short memory! no matter how far we have strayed from GOD, it is never too late to turn back to a no-questions-asked welcome. remember the thief crucified with JESUS! he repents in the last moments of his life; and JESUS promises him: «today, you will be with me in paradise.»
the kingdom of heaven is for those prepared to answer GOD’s call today, no matter what happened yesterday.

like which son am i? am i willing to repent and do GOD’s will despite past failings?
the challenge is to be like the third son—JESUS—who was always faithful.