Phil 2:1 – 11.
In this (second) reading Paul draws attention with a special emphasis to the message he is about to preach. He makes it very personal as something close to his own heart. The message is a plea for unity of mind and heart in the community. This will be achieved by self-giving in practice. This means each one giving up any self-centredness and self-importance and always putting the interests of the other first. In calling for this, he puts before us the highest possible ideal: ‘in your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus’. Then, to show us ‘the mind of Christ’, Paul launches into a magnificent hymn, which is one of the very highest points of all his writings. The central thought is expressed simply and strikingly: ‘He emptied himself’.
Jesus Christ, when he took on human nature, did not cease to be divine, but he completely divested himself of all the power, glory and beauty of the Godhead and became fully and genuinely as we humans are in everything except sin. He really was human with all that that means, including weaknesses and limitations. And then, in that human nature, ‘he emptied himself’ by going, in every way, to the furthest possible extreme of self-giving. so he could say on the cross: ‘It is complete, it is finished’ – there is nothing more.
Because he went to the very end he broke through death and was raised to a glorious new life. This is wonderful good news for us. When Christ took on our human nature, he was incorporated into the human family and the whole of creation, becoming completely one with us and we with him. So we were on the cross with him, died with him, and in being raised to new life he took us with him!
Gospel: Matt 21:28-32.
Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders – religious leaders who put excessive importance on outward religious observance and ‘practice’. They condemned and rejected those who did not obey all the religious rules and regulations. Jesus always rejected this attitude. Keeping external rules is not what matters but inner disposition. ‘Tax collectors and prostitutes’ often represented these law-breakers, but they were open and humble enough to listen to John or Jesus and change their mind and heart towards God. The religious leaders were enthusiastic for the law but neglected the deeper demands. They were too self-centred and self- righteous to accept any call to inner change.
This contrast is not confined to Jews of Jesus’ day but can probably be found in every organised religious group, including our own. We may sometimes find ourselves being particular about keeping the rules of the Church, and adamant in demanding that others do so, while we may not be following the accepting and loving, compassionate and totally inclusive way of Jesus.
Sr. Genevieve Mooney OP