Peace and grace to you all!
This weekend we are reminded that in order to experience God’s Kingdom of peace, harmony, hope, mercy, love, encouragement, and every other good thing from God, we must live in a manner in which we are always turning to God. We know that it is not always easy to do this. In fact, quite frequently people experience a resistance toward God’s will. They know in their head that God is always right and true, but for various reasons the feelings they have in their heart or desires they have do not coincide with God’s plan. Resolving a struggle like this can take just a few moments or many years! It varies from person to person and situation to situation.
In his letter to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul addresses the factions and rivalries that are destroying the good will and peaceful relationships that God desires for his people. St. Paul first points to harmony as a mark of God’s kingdom and what people really want: “being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” He further explains what is necessary to attain a harmonious experience when he says “Do nothing out of selfishness or vain glory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” This is the attitude of Christ Jesus and we should make his attitude our own. Remember the way Jesus emptied himself, the way he suffered and served others.
Jesus points out to the hardhearted and self-righteous Pharisees that prostitutes and criminals were experiencing the love and goodness of God when they turn away from sin and selfishness to obey God’s plan. We might see others around us experiencing the joy and love of God while we don’t. Our path is not against other people but against forces of darkness in order to follow the Gospel. Hopefully today, many of us who feel a desire for greater harmony and peace can be like the son who changed his mind, who listened and followed God’s plan. If people do this together, the harmony comes to be, but it only happens when they work together to achieve it. It never happens if only one tries. It is a strong reminder to us that we should really try to listen for what God wants for us and others while we pray in our hearts.
May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter