Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25:4-9; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

First Reading: Whose way is not fair, God’s or ours? This is the question at the heart of the prophetic words from Ezekiel.

Psalm 25: The author of the psalm prays that the Lord make his ways known. Together with the psalmist we pray to God for guidance in following God’s ways of truth and justice.

Second Reading: Our attitude must match the attitude that is in Christ Jesus. From prison, Paul writes to his beloved Philippians, encouraging them to work toward unity by following through on his words and actions. Christ binds them together, and in Christ, Paul encourages them to be of “the same mind, with the same love, united in heart,” so that they can develop a common outlook and mission.

Gospel: In Matthew, the parable of the two sons whom the father asks to work in his vineyard follows immediately after the authorities question Jesus about from where his authority for teaching in the temple comes. In this parable, one son tells his father he will not work, and then does; while the other son says he will work, and then does not. A parable about a change of heart.

Reflection: Today’s parable of the two sons being sent by their father to work in the vineyard is unique to Matthew’s account of the Gospel, set in the context of some Jewish leaders questioning Jesus’ authority. Pairs of siblings are often used as allegorical characters to represent dichotomy in literature. Matthew’s source for this parable could be the same source that Luke uses for his parable of the prodigal son.

In this case, the dichotomy is between those who say but do not do, and those who do not say but eventually follow through. It follows that those who say, appear respectful and righteous, while those who do not say, appear disrespectful and sinful. In Jesus’ day, those claiming adherence to the law claimed righteousness, while those who did not were treated as outcasts and sinners. Jesus searches the heart and is not fooled by empty words. The parable communicates the reality of Jesus’ Good News. Those who think they are righteous are usually blind to their need for repentance and forgiveness. Those who know they are not righteous see the need and are open to repentance and forgiveness.

Truth be told, all of us are a little like both sons at once. Sometimes we hear and respond faithfully to God’s will, but at other times our actions don’t carry through what we hear and believe. The good news in this is that God does not change the divine mind about calling us to salvation. Whether we say yes or no to God’s call, God does keep calling us. We are the ones who need a change of mind. We are the ones who must believe in God’s offer of salvation and faithfully do God’s will.

The parable ends by contrasting the response of the two groups to John the Baptists’ preaching on repentance. The righteous rejected it, seeing no need for it, while the sinners accepted it, seeing the need and following through on it. Ultimately, judgment will be based on what we do, not on what we say. Our choices to turn to God or away from God determine our choice of life or death. Let us ask God to teach us the path of wisdom and life.

Question for reflection: What gifts have I offered for the growth of the kingdom through my discipleship?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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