Fr Adrian's Homily

 Year A 2020

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Fr Adrian Farrelly

Reflection Fr Adrian

A sense of individual responsibility is one of the great gifts the Jewish people gave to the world and Western society in particular. Ezekiel challenged a view prevailing in his society that the situation of exile they experienced could be blamed on previous generations. That they were victims of their upbringing. There is no denying, and studies of dysfunctional families show the truth of this, that we are deeply imprinted by the family situation we grow up in. Addiction, physical abuse experienced while growing up oddly leaves people as it were predisposed to behave in a similar way. Off spring of addicted parents or physically abusive parents often marry people with similar behaviour patterns. What we grow up with, however, does not absolve us from personal responsibility. “I have to behave like this because that is what Dad or Mum did?” No we don’t. Part of coming to adult maturity is to recognize what we have taken on board from our family of origin and if good, build on it and if dysfunctional, take steps to change any dysfunctional ways of thinking and acting.

Unlike other living creatures with whom we share this planet, we, human beings, are the only ones who play an active role in the kind of human being we become. A plant, a bird, a fish, or an animal is completely what it is as it blossoms, hatches, or is born. What happens to our natural brothers and sisters (to use the language of St Francis of Assisi who happily spoke of brother sun and sister moon such was his sense of connectedness with all creation) is that they simply grow to be bigger version of what they were as they made their entrance into the world. A rose becomes a bigger bush, so too does a pelican, a barramundi or a kangaroo. Each of them simply grows as they take on the needed nourishment for survival.

Human beings are different. We, because of the divine gift of free will, can make ourselves more or less human. We are not leopards incapable of changing our spotted pelt, we are not old dogs incapable of learning new tricks. We are each a unique bearer of the image of the God who brought us into existence, breathed a soul into us, wrote the law of love and compassion on our hearts and minds. Given this ability to change, righteous persons can renounce their righteousness be wicked, and equally the wicked can abandon wickedness and become righteous. And here is the heart of Ezekiel’s teaching, God will reward the reformed wicked and punish the non-persevering righteous. What they did in the past will not be used against them or for them. What each person does in the present is what counts.

The two sons in the parable used by Jesus in the gospel passage of today’s celebrations are a case in point. An initial refusal to work at what will provide for the family is cast aside, while an initial agreement to work is revoked. Applied to ourselves and our relationship with the Father, we are never set in concrete with our responses to what the Father asks of us, what is the will of God. A sinner can become a saint and a saint can become a sinner. The chief priests and the elders saw those they classified as irredeemable, tax collectors and prostitutes, change in their response to the preaching of John the Baptist but they themselves were unable to endorse John as a bringer of new life.

Paul challenges us to have the mind of Christ as our minds. No matter what has gone on in the past of any of us, now is the time to acknowledge our personal responsibility for the person we are to be, abandon any trace of victimhood which we use for not changing and come alive as the saints God wants us to. Unlike the animals and plants, we are to become more than human as fully alive sons and daughters of God.       Fr Adrian