Once upon a time, there was an unfortunate poor man. His home was also very poor – a small and empty house, where rodents and insects made their cribs and spiders made their webs. People tried to avoid coming into his house – why should they stick their noses into those poor ruins? And the poor man thought that poverty is the reason of his misfortunes – his eternal destiny and he accepted his fate without interrogations.
One day, the poor man mustered courage and went to consult a wise man to complain to him about his poverty and miserable life. The wise man felt sorry for the poor man and gave him an unprecedented gift; a vase. And said: ‘This is an amazing vase that will bring about a change for you and save you from poverty”.
The poor man took the vase and went home. He thought of selling it at first and then spending the money on alcohol, and other things he had missed on account of his poverty. “Why would I need such a beautiful thing?” He asked himself. But then he started admiring the vase and decided not to sell it as he earlier thought. He brought the vase home, put it on a table and started admiring it. “It’s not right for such a beautiful vase to be empty!” – He thought. So he picked some beautiful flowers and put them into the vase. It became even more beautiful!
“It is not good that such a beautiful flower vase stands next to dust, cobweb and other dirty things around” the poor man thought again. So he started cleaning his house from spider webs, sweeping out cockroaches and other unfriendly tenants in his house. He washed the floor and the walls, and a neighbour who saw him doing charity to his house offered him some paint to whiten the ceiling. In few hours his house became awesome.
He was surprised that he received three visitors in one day and they came to admire the flower vase the story of which they heard from the man’s neighbour who offered him some white paint. However, he had only one seat and no radio nor television to entertain the “flower vase tourists”. When they left, he decided to go out and look for a job to do. He found one that surprisingly paid him handsomely and it came through an employer who recognised him as the man that has a beautiful flower vase.
In few weeks, the “poor” in the man’s name dropped completely. He bought seats, got stereo and television sets for the house. The story did not end there. He thought of someone who would look after the flower vase and the now beautiful house in his absence. He thought of a maid but dropped the idea when his neighbour told him that he needed to have a wife and possibly children. The former poor man finally got married to a lady whose father was coincidentally the one who gave the vase to the wise am in appreciation for a wise advice that changed his life. The couple later had kids and lived happily ever after; thanks to the POSITIVE CHANGE from the vase!
Change has been seen by many, including the philosopher called Heraclitus, as one thing that is constant. However change has two dimensions: positive and negative. In whichever way a particular change goes, it produces a lot of effects. If the change is a positive one, there are positive effects and if it is a negative one there are negative effects.
In our daily activities we often try to assess people’s behaviour or attitude from the point of view of their ways. Often you may hear people saying things like: “I don’t understand his/her ways!” His or her ways are not good!” “I love his or her ways!” Today in the First Reading (Ezekiel 18:25-28) we hear God responding to the people of Israel who adjudged His ways as unjust. Why could they have made that judgement? The answer is in the text. They may have presumed that if you were once righteous and you turn around to be unrighteous, your former righteousness will save you. In the same way if you were wicked and you turn around to become righteous, your former wickedness would still prevail.
The above presumption is directly contrary to God’s script. Last week we were told that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. This fundamental difference is even enough for us to adjudge God’s ways as unjust. This disparity between God’s way and those of the Israelites in the First Reading was made more dramatic by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel Reading of today (Matt.21:28-32) when he was addressing the priests and the elders. In the parable there were two sons. Their Father asked his two sons to go and work in the vineyard. That would have been a very lowly assignment because labourers and slaves are the ones that normally work in the vineyard of a master.
Coming back to the assignment, the first son declined the directive but later changed his mind and went but the second son agreed to go and later failed to go. “Who among them obeyed the father; the one who agreed to go and did not go or the one who did not accept to go but later went?” The answer is clear. They both made changes; one was positive and the other negative.
There are obviously sometimes we repeat the script of the second son when we make a lot of promises as quickly as quick itself only to leave them unattended. This is mostly in the context of our relationship with God. We can recall how many times we had gone for confession and ended with these words “…BY THE HELP OF YOUR GRACE I WILL NOT SIN AGAIN” and how many times we had gone contrary to that, even when the grace of God is ever sufficient for us (2 Cor.12:9) . How many of us stood by our New Year resolutions? How many of us still remember to keep to the vows of our baptism that we renewed on the eve of Easter?
Change is very needful in our lives and it must of necessity be positive. However, we are often faced with one important factor in our effort to come around for a positive change. What could this factor be? You will find out in this story. In a certain company, the workers came one morning to see a large inscription saying: “Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the room that has been prepared in the gym!” All the workers were shocked that someone had been a hindrance but at the same time happy that the person had died.
Assembling at the gym hall, they saw a coffin at the centre of the room..mhhhh! A very serious issue! Now the MD emerged with a choir singing some funeral songs. They were all the more overwhelmed. When the funeral dirge stopped, the MD asked all the workers to get into a file and process to view the person in the coffin. As was expected they struggled into the line. The coffin was opened. To their amazement as each person went he or she saw his or her reflection on a big mirror that was placed in the coffin… Finally it became clear that each person saw himself or herself in the coffin.
We are the greatest obstacles to ourselves. We take so much time trying to locate our problems in other people; our family and friends. We often fail to take time to look into our lives, our choices and decisions, our plans and aspiration most of which run contrary to God’s ways and expectations from us. Often we term ourselves as righteous men and women and we believe that the tag stands to save us irrespective of the wrong things we do afterwards. Sometimes we excuse ourselves or give ourselves irrelevant analgesics by saying that we have been doing well all these while, so anything we do wrong now should not count. God wants us to be consistent and that was why our Lord Jesus Christ advised thus: “let your yes be yes and your no be no; anything other than these comes from the evil one” (Matt.5:37).
As we march into the new week, let us be conscious that change will always take place, however let the change be positive and helpful to us. Let us take some time to examine that big obstacle which is ourselves and advance towards prodding ourselves to positive and helpful changes. May we God’s grace continue to be sufficient for us. Have a wonderful Sunday and a most blessed week ahead.