26 A (Two Sons)
Ez 18:25-28 / Ps 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9/
Phil 2:1-11 / Mt. 21: 28-32
In today’s gospel Jesus tells the parable of two sons who say one thing and do another. Asked by the father to go and work in the vineyard, the first son said no but later reconsidered his decision and did the work. The second son, on the other hand, courteously said yes to the father but failed to do the work. Who actually did what the father wanted? Clearly it is the first son, the one who had said no to him.
Jesus told this parable in the temple in Jerusalem just days before they would arrest him and put him to death. For three years he had been preaching to the people, inviting them to repent and believe in the Good News. He discovered that, in fact, it was the public sinners like the tax-collectors and prostitutes who responded to his invitation. The religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, still opposed Jesus and his message. They had greeted John the Baptist with the same attitude.
The parable compares the tax-collectors and prostitutes to the son who first said no but later did what the father wanted, and the Scribes and Pharisees to the son who enthusiastically said yes but did not go. One group has no fine words but they have good deeds. The other group has fine words but no corresponding good deeds. The parable is for us, too. Today, God still has 2 sons. The two sons represent two kinds of people and the different ways they try to relate to God. There are those who have no fine words: like those who profess no faith, who do not go to church, who do not pray. But sometimes when there is injustice in the city they will be the first to rise up to condemn the injustice. When there are calamities, they are the ones who donate food, and clothing.
Then there are those of us who have fine words: who come to church every Sunday and say to God “Amen”! We believe” We wear medals as ways of professing our faith. But sometimes when it comes to concrete action in support of what we know to be the will of God, we are found wanting.
-Like the first son we can say yes to the Lord in appearance, while deep inside us we really say NO to him.
-Like the Pharisees we can appear so pious, making pretentious long prayers, attending bible studies, recollections not so much out of love and search for deeper meaning in life.
One can SAY yes to the Lord while keeping on slandering others, neglecting one's responsibilities, while holding on to our attachments…
What about our baptismal vows, marriage vows and our religious vows? A solemn YES is often times TARNISHED by so many NO’s. A husband, for example can say YES with the lips while keeping on being unfaithful to one's wife.
All these simply amount to not going to the Lord's vineyard.
We become disciples only when we fulfill the will of the Father. Jesus says in the gospel: 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.
What the Lord is looking for is a 3rd son. One who says YES and at the same time keeps his words.
Roughly, the Gospel for today could be summarized into this : GOD LOVES HUMBLE SINNERS MORE THAN THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS AND PROUD SAINTS.
He speaks of rebellious sons, of money-grabbers and prostitutes entering the kingdom of God right now, while professional religious persons stay behind in complacent pride.
This does not mean that the Lord is indifferent to sinners nor does he condone sin.
This is to show that Jesus VALUES change of heart more than mere words or reputation.