Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Oct. 1 in Jonesboro.
Most novels are divided into chapters. The early chapters introduce the characters and subsequent chapters take us through the twists and turns of the plot — some of which may be quite unexpected, especially as we reach the climax of the story.
Sometimes the people you’d least expect end up saving the day, For instance, in “Schindler’s List” the Nazi exploiter of Jews ends up rescuing lots of Jews — and that wasn’t even fiction.
This is also true in the life of the Church as we know all too well as your parish begins a new chapter in your parish history. As you look back over the years, you can see many twists and turns as your parish community built two other church buildings prior to moving into this church building in 1933. And it is also true in our own personal lives, meaning that there could well remain some twists and turns yet to occur in our own personal future and in that of your parish, some of which may also be very unexpected.
In Jesus’ parable a man has two sons whom he tells to go out and work in the vineyard. The first son is belligerent and disobedient. He refuses to comply, right to his father’s face.
I have a brother who always had to have things his way when he was a teenager and had a hard time accepting decisions he didn’t agree with. As a result he made life miserable, especially for himself. Then finally he came to his senses. He decided to get with the program and as a result turned his whole life around, thus beginning a whole new — positive — chapter in his life. Yesterday’s sinner becomes tomorrow’s saint. He is now, quite surprisingly, the most cooperative and loyal of all my brothers and sisters.
The other son in our Gospel, unfortunately, does the opposite. He had been the so-called good kid, always going to go along with whatever his father said, but now his father asks of him something he does not like, and all of a sudden he’s not such a good kid anymore. Probably we all know people in the same situation — the good kid turned bad. We might even be that kid ourselves.
What is Jesus saying here? Well, in the context of our Gospel, the chief priests and elders — the respectable people of his day — say all the right words, give God lip service, but are unable to accept the fact that God is doing something unexpected and new. They rejected John the Baptist even though God was clearly speaking through him and now they are rejecting Jesus.
On the other hand, the people you’d least expect and who up to now have been doing everything but God’s will are now coming to their senses and turning their lives around, for instance Matthew the tax collector and Mary Magdalene.
The Good News is that once they get with the program, their lives takes a decisive turn for the better and from now on they become more and more faithful and obedient to God. The Good News is also that Jesus’ adversaries can turn their lives around too. But if they want to change their lives, they’d better start writing that positive new chapter right now while there’s still time.
Your parish is now beginning to write a new chapter in your parish history. This is a bittersweet moment. We will miss this building that has seen so many important moments in our lives. Many of you were baptized here, attend Mass here, were married here and buried loved ones from here. This move has been long in the planning, but like with any loss, you’re never really ready for it. But the future is in God’s hands and he’s doing wonderful things here in Jonesboro.
Let us thank the Lord for all of the blessings we have received from him in this place and commit ourselves to continuing our work of building the Kingdom of God in the Church building that will be our new home.
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