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Let It Change Us

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13

Thus says the LORD:
Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,
to the tyrannical city!
She hears no voice,
accepts no correction;
In the LORD she has not trusted,
to her God she has not drawn near.

For then I will change and purify
the lips of the peoples,
That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,
to serve him with one accord;
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
and as far as the recesses of the North,
they shall bring me offerings.

On that day
You need not be ashamed
of all your deeds,
your rebellious actions against me;
For then will I remove from your midst
the proud braggarts,
And you shall no longer exalt yourself
on my holy mountain.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD:
the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong
and speak no lies;
Nor shall there be found in their mouths
a deceitful tongue;
They shall pasture and couch their flocks
with none to disturb them.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 AND 23

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

NAB

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His astonishment was palpable. Even though my scholar had read every word, even though he’d faithfully answered every study guide question and could spit them back, he bombed the test. Essays. The test asked him to write what he knew from his own understanding and apply it to his life.

When we read today’s Gospel, we wonder if we’re being set up for a trick question. Even though the Pharisees answer correctly, Jesus compares them unfavorably to harlots and tax collectors. The chief priests, the tax collectors, and the harlots all heard Saint John the Baptist’s teaching. They all knew the lessons. The Pharisees bragged that they were faithful to God’s teaching, but they refused to believe the Baptist. They knew it, but they didn’t own it. The tax collectors and harlots made the teaching their own. They saw the truth connections. They let it change their lives.

You can have encyclopedic knowledge of what righteousness is, but until your heart directs your hands to do whatever He tells you, you don’t have the right answer to the critical question of salvation. It is important to know God’s law. It is vital to learn the faith, but it is all for naught if we don’t do God’s will. We are not saved by knowledge. It is not enough to recognize God as Lord and Savior. Later in this Gospel, Saint Matthew makes that very clear: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

My young scholar knew all the answers. He could have cited chapter and verse of his text. If the questions had been framed differently, he would have gotten a perfect score on that test. But the teacher wanted more. The teacher wanted him to know that the answers required something of him. The truth wasn’t really his until he made it his own.

It’s not enough to tell the Father that we will certainly do what He asks. We have to want what He wants. We have to understand His will in such a way that we don’t walk away from it. We have to let it change us.

Don’t just know what He wants. Tell your head to make your hands do whatever He tells you. Ask the Holy Spirit for the strength and grace to actually do it.

Elizabeth Foss is a wife, the mother of nine, and a grandmother. She finds the cacophony of big family imperfection to be the perfect place to learn to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. You can learn more about her here

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