Homily 26th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 1, 2017

In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord is in full defense mode on behalf of his relative John the Baptist. The one who came in the name of righteousness and not to be forgotten after having his head chopped off by the forces of evil. And the consistent message that has been passed down over the centuries as connected to John has been the message of repentance.
Repentance, however, takes a certain set of eyes to see our lives and viewpoints on social issues in an honest manner and say, “I like this about myself, but I don’t like that about myself. I love the fact that God has graced me with a genuine love for the poor, and has provided us the capacity to care for the sick, to pray for the sick, to be attentive to their needs. But, I don’t like the fact that I get angry, or jealous, or envious of those who have the things I want, or the fame I seek, or the talent I wish I had. Therefore, I’m going to ask the Lord for the grace of conversion, or the blessings of a simple, uncomplicated life.”
The virtue so connected to John the Baptist, repentance, cannot be realized without the virtue so connected with Christ, humility. Humility comes easy to a few people, out of 7.5 billion people in the world, according to Wikipedia (and we know they’re never wrong). The rest of us, about 7.49 billion, need to work at humility really hard. To pray for the vision to see what can be changed by way of conversion, and what reflects God within us.
When in Ireland last week, our group had a wonderful tour leader loading us up with all sorts of information about the Emerald Isle. From how many pubs there are in Dublin, to the oldest pub, as well as information about the Irish Civil War that began in 1916 in the same city, while World War I was going on, to information on Belfast in Northern Ireland where a tourist can touch the wall that continues to separate the Catholic from Protestant neighborhoods in that northern city, to the meaning of many of the murals on the wall that made statements of peace and not war, as well as information that Belfast is the only city on the entire island of Ireland where a wall separating people has been built for any purpose, never mind one that separates religious believers who supposedly accept the one Savior of the world as their Redeemer.
Our tour leader was loaded with information about Ireland that would be hard to come by otherwise. One would have to read many books. And fortunately, there was no one on the tour who pretended to know more than she did. We were humble enough to know our place and listen and ask some questions along the way. We knew our role, and appreciated the expert knowledge of Ireland she shared with us.
Our Lord is pointing out the same to the Chief Priests and Elders of the People about John the Baptist. Jesus was an expert on the life of John the Baptist, and what his life meant. John was the tour leader of repentance and conversion. John was the expert, sent by God, on how we can be in a good relationship with God. And he shared his wide breath of knowledge on repentance and conversion, much of which never made it into the Scriptures, but enough for us to understand what the island of repentance requires on our part. What it looks like in the city of our families; what it looks like in the world of labor, our Church, and with our neighbor. John the Baptist was the consummate tour guide on the topic of continuous conversion.
The leaders in front of Jesus were not humble enough to heed his teaching. To absorb it, reflect on it, and apply it for the purpose of spreading peace and not confusion. If there’s a lack of peace in our lives, one of the major reasons is that we haven’t sought out the virtue of repentance enough. It takes humility to repent and convert. When we do so, we draw deeper into the humility of Christ, who humble himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross.
The Chief Priests and Elders wanted nothing to do with humility. They had too much power and the material goods of the world to lose. The same goes today for Church leaders and others in the political world. Someone who lacks humility, and holds no capacity to repent for past and present mistakes, I wouldn’t follow that person to Honey Farms. But I would follow a converted prostitute all the way to heaven. So, if you see me following a prostitute, it’s because she’s converted to Christ, taking on the repentance and conversion of John the Baptist, and the humility of her Lord and Savior. My priestly advice is don’t ever follow someone who has no capacity to repent, and no disposition towards humility.
Jesus is rightfully defending John because John was of God. He was a godly Prophet who spoke the truth of conversion and repenting our sins. His way is the way of righteousness, which means to be in a good, productive relationship with the Lord. A relationship that is alive in the Spirit of Christ, and not dead in the spirit of this world. We are called to transform the spirit of this world into the Spirit of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.
As the Chief Priests and the Elders standing before Christ take on the look of the second son in the parable, who lied about going to work in the vineyard of the Lord, the one who never showed up for honest work, we instead take on the look of the first son, who changed his mind and went to work in the Lord’s vineyard. The son who had a well-formed conscience and true humility.