There is an elderly priest at the end of his life; he dies and goes to heaven. There was also a cab driver at the same time, who died very close to him, and so they happened to meet each other right at the gates of Saint Peter. As they were about to enter, Saint Peter assigned each of them their place. He said to the priest first, “Here’s your place.” He walked the priest to his place, a tiny one-bedroom apartment. Then he takes the cab driver to his place, and it is a giant huge, beautiful mansion.
The priest said to Saint Peter, “I don’t get it. I’ve given to you my whole life, and it isn’t fair that I’m given this, and he would get the mansion. Saint Peter told the priest, “I have to tell you, every time that you preached, half the people fell asleep, and the other half the people read their bulletin the whole time.” Then he said, “This cab driver thought anytime he drove the cab, people stayed awake and prayed the entire time.”
I want to talk about fairness. We hear this throughout the First Reading and the Gospel about God’s fairness. In the First Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, we hear, “Thus says the Lord: You people say that the Lord’s way is not fair.” So, we tend to do that too. We say, “God, this isn’t fair; you know what we have to deal with in life.” Then he says, “Is it the Lord’s way that is unfair, or is it your way?” So, he turns it back on the people.
I think we have this struggle, especially in our culture today, where we live in this age of almost an age where people don’t even believe in God. So even the natural order that we have, the natural growth that God has given to us, even that is being pushed out. What we’re discovering is that the more that we as people and as a country turn away from God, we’re saying it’s our ways that are right; it’s our ways that are fair, not God’s.
So, the prophet is saying to them, he’s warning them, he’s saying if you’re saying that your way is right and God’s way is wrong, there’s a problem. At the very end of it, he says, “Since he has turned away from all the sins he has committed, he surely will not die” So, if we turn away from the sin we committed, we surely will not die.
What does it take to turn away from our sin? First, it is realizing that God sets the order for what is good, holy, beautiful, and true, not us. Then in our culture, we have this kind of person-centered culture that says, I determine what is good, what is true.”
We hear this again in the gospel where Jesus gives this parable, and He talks about this man who had two sons; he’s asking them both to go out to the vineyard and to work. He said to his first son, “Son go out in the vineyard,” the first son said, “No, I will not go out,” He despised him, but then later, he changed his mind and went out into the vineyard. Then he says to the second son, “Son, go out into the vineyard,” and the son says, “Yes, I’ll do it,” he changes his mind and doesn’t do it. Then they asked him, of course, which is doing the father’s will. Of course, it is the first son who did it.
I have a family that has a few kids. They have two boys, especially those who are opposite, and their names are Matthew and John. Matthew is the older one, and whenever they ask Matthew to do a chore in the house, he fights them up and down, leaves, and just kind of drags it all out, and when they’re done, they’re exhausted and will do the work he was supposed to do. He has to argue through it. The other son, John, will instantly say, “Yes, I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” and never does it. The parents told me they actually preferred John because they didn’t have to go through all that fighting with them.
But God prefers that we wrestle with Him. He prefers that we wrestle with Him and actually engage with God before we decide to do or not to do something. Especially in our world today, we have a lot of difficult issues; many things are becoming more difficult because the world is becoming less and less aligned with God’s truth. The more we become less aligned with God’s truth, the more we don’t believe that God’s ways are fair. We don’t believe that the Commandments that He has given to us are good.
What I would invite us to do is actually, instead of just saying, “I’m going to do my own thing”, actually engage with God. Say, “Why have you given this Commandment?”
We hear the prophets of warning throughout the Old Testament, and then Jesus comes in and warns, and after Jesus suffers, dies, rises, and ascends, He sends the Holy Spirit into His church. So, the church is now the prophetic voice of God. There are issues in our church that can be difficult for some of us, and in those issues, I would invite us to wrestle with them. Try to grapple with God and say, “Why are you teaching this?” Instead of saying, “I’m not going to listen to Him, I’ll do my own thing.”
Like the priest and the cab driver, right? We’re supposed to engage with God like those two brothers, and it is okay if you disagree with God, but at least tell Him that. Wrestle with Him, and read and study the church teachings. Find out why the church teaches what it does and do not so easily dismiss it. Hopefully, when we end our lives, we can say that we have converted. We have turned to our God. We have obeyed His decrees.
My brothers and sisters, if there is, and there probably is for all of us, a church teaching that we struggle with, I invite you to wrestle with it, to pray about it, to ask God, to study, to read about it, to go online, and learn what you can about it. Because He wants us to know His will. He wants us to do His will, not to make our lives miserable, but to make our lives the most joyful, happy, wonderful life we can have and finally join Him in eternal life.