PUT ON TRIAL

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            Let me give you a scenario – it does not or it will not happen (just a scenario): What if it has already been declared that to be a Christian Catholic is a grave crime punishable by death? And because you are accused of committing this crime, as you go out of this church, you get arrested, brought to a court, put on trial and prosecuted. The prosecutor for the State will try to prove that you are guilty – that you are indeed a practicing Catholic. How will your trial go?

            Would there be enough evidence to prove that you are a true Christian, a genuine Catholic? Would there be a case that could be filed against you on the grounds that you are a follower of Christ and you are living the gospel values in your everyday life? Would there be an incriminating fact that you do what your Master Jesus has commanded you to do? Would there be a conclusive evidence that your absolute loyalty is to God and not to any political leader? Would there be an affirmation and confirmation that you belong to the kingdom of God and that you are promoting it, even going against the government that counters and hinders it? Would there be a valid testimony from your neighbors that you love them as you love yourself? Would there be a sworn statement from the poor and oppressed that you take care of them and fight for their rights? Would there be a demonstration that you are merciful and forgiving to those who sin against you? Would there be a documentary evidence or paper trail showing that you practice Christian stewardship?

            If that happens, the “final verdict” that each of us should pray for is: “The court finds you guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, of being a true follower of Jesus and genuine Catholic.” Shame on us if the court finds us “not guilty.” Not guilty because we are Catholics in name and words only…we are no different from those who do not believe in God…we too are overly concerned with material things…we too have little concern for the poor and the needy…our Christian prayers, liturgical celebrations and Bible-reading have no significant effect on our outward conduct…when we are offended we retaliate, we do not forgive. Again, shame on us if the judge says, “For lack of evidence that this person is a Catholic in act, I dismiss this case!”

            Brennan Manning, in his book “The Signature of Jesus,” writes, “Christianity used to be a risky business – it is no longer. Cost-free discipleship produces wimps.”

            In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of two sons who say one thing and do another. Asked by the father to go and work in the vineyard the first son said no but later reconsidered his decision and did the work. The second son, on the other hand, politely said yes to the father but did not follow this through and failed to do the work. Today’s gospel parable tells us that obedience is in our action and not in our words.

            There is, in all of us, a gap between what we profess and how we live. St. Paul, in today’s second reading, is exhorting us to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But, is Jesus Christ really Lord of our life? Is he the Lord of our personal life, married life, family life? Is he the Lord of our political world and social engagements? Is he the Lord of our work, our profession, our career, our business? Is he the Lord of our finances, our investments, our projects?

            Bishop Robert Barron says: “When Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, when he is the unambiguous center of your life, then, everything else finds its place around him and in relation to him.” “And anything that will assert itself and take his central position must be resisted wholeheartedly as an idol and a temptation.” That is the principle we must live by: Jesus is the Center and our Everything.

            If Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Lord of our life,we must put everyone else and everything else aside to follow him faithfully and completely. Our families, our loved ones, our friends, our partners and lovers must not take Jesus away from the center of our life. They must help us fix our eyes on Jesus. Our occupations, jobs, professions, careers or businesses must not dislodge Jesus from the center of our mind. They must not distract us from “minding the main thing.” Our personal wants and desires, our own plans and ambitions, must not displace Jesus from the center of our heart. They must not encumber and hamper us in any way. If the Lord Jesus is THE CENTER of our life, then our relationship with and attitude toward others will significantly and even radically change. If the Lord Jesus is OUR EVERYTHING, then we will give up everything else that is less than what Jesus is for us.

            If we live by this principle, we will surely hear this final verdict on us: “The court finds you guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, of being a true follower of Jesus and a genuine Catholic.”    

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