This weekend in our local parish we begin our preparation for the world meeting of Families being held in Dublin in August 2018. We are unique in that we are the parish of the Holy Family and over the next 10 months or so we will have a short time of prayer and reflection for families on the first Sunday of the month at 5pm. As part of the preparation for the world meeting each diocese in Ireland will be hosting the icon of the Holy Family that was anointed in Knock recently. The Icon will be coming to Down and Connor Diocese on the 30th September for the annual diocesan convention. We will have the icon in our parish from the afternoon of the 2nd October to Wednesday 4th October.
In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear the story of the two sons. The first son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted. And then the second son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver . The first son “thought the better of it.” He was open to change. The second son was set in his ways and closed to the idea of change. The ability to change one’s mind is essential to all healthy relationships. A mind that is closed, whether from pride, stubbornness or stupidity, tends to destroy all relationships, e.g., when we refuse to admit a mistake, when we are unwilling to apologise and change our ways, when we persist in prejudice against a person or group, when we think we know it all when we don’t.
Jesus surprises the people around him by responding favorably to the actions of the tax collectors and prostitutes who may have gotten it wrong at first but have since repented and come back. Too many of us are down on ourselves for our past lives. Many of us can truthfully say, “I have made mistakes.” But we are here now. We are doing our best to follow the Lord. We try our best to receive the strength of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and integrate this into our daily lives. This Gospel passage points out something very important about faith and religion. Sometimes the terms faith and religion are taken to be the same. But they are not at all the same. The difference between them be seen more clearly if we speak of religious practices rather than religion. There is of a close relationship between religious practice and faith. Religious practices have to be based on and animated by faith. The Lord calls us to a living faith whereby we enter into a living relationship with God. That involves something more than adherence to a system of ideas or obedience to a collection of rules or the practice of certain rites. It requires an authentic desire to follow Christ, whatever the costs to us material or otherwise.