Sunday, October 1, 2017

Parable of the Two Sons

                                    Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It’s not fair! It seems like even as far back as the time of the prophet Ezekiel, people were complaining that life is not fair. More specifically, they were complaining that the Lord’s way is not fair. Is it fair that people who have lived good, upstanding lives should not attain happiness because of one mistak

Actually Ezekiel is saying that it takes more than one mistake. He speaks of someone who deliberately turns away from virtue to seek what he calls iniquity.

In the same way, is it fair for someone who has led a life of iniquity to be saved by a conversion at the last minute? We saw in last week’s gospel that those who had labored only an hour got the same wage as those who had worked a whole day. Is that fair? Nevertheless, throughout the gospels we are told that the Lord has a special concern for those who have strayed or gone away. Moreover, we are told that we should rejoice when they are found.

Today’s gospel gives us a similar lesson. It is the parable of the man with two sons. One is asked by his father to go work in the vineyard but refuses. But later he decides to do the work. The other son is also asked to go to the vineyard and says yes, but then never shows up. When Jesus asked, “Which of the two did his father’s will,” his hearers readily agreed that it was the first son despite his initial refusal.

It’s easy to understand the moral of this parable but hard to apply it to our own lives. Many of us have been coming to Church our whole lives but might also be dealing with children who refuse to go. They’ve said no but we also know that many of our fallen away relatives and friends are actually working in the vineyard. They are supporting their families, educating and directing their children, and even, in many cases, taking care of their elderly parents.

I have to admit that some of the most Christian people I know do not believe in God or practice any religion. Like it or not, they are cooperating with the grace of God. Sadly, I have to admit that some of the devout Catholics I know would not even give you the time of day. Someone once said, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

In today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians he warns the community at Philippi to beware of complacency and selfishness.

Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory,
Rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
Each looking our not for his own interests,
But also for those of others.

We all know that our favorite subject is ourselves. We never tire of talking about ourselves, our interests and our concerns. We use social media to tell our story to all who will listen, and even love to take pictures of ourselves and put them on the web. Today, even Senior citizens know about “Selfies”.

How many times do we meet someone and all they do is talk about themselves? Worse, how many times do we meet someone, and all we do is talk about ourselves? Selfishness can certainly be observed in even young children. One only has to attend a modern birthday party where the birthday boy or girl sits on a veritable throne. Of course, teenagers are notorious for selfishness. Often their words and actions seem to indicate that the whole world revolves around them.

For many young adults the responsibilities of work and family will help to overcome selfishness, but it is really sad to see men and women shirking their own family and work responsibilities out of an excessive concern for their own self. Unfortunately, Senior citizens are not immune from selfishness. What can be worse than being confronted by a Senior citizen anxious to tell you all about themselves.

I guess you could say that selfishness is part of our human nature. Perhaps, it is even a kind of protective spiritual armor. In any case, it requires a supernatural gift or grace to overcome our natural tendencies. St. Paul tells the Philippians to follow the example of Jesus.
Have in you the same attitude
That is also in Christ Jesus…
He emptied himself,
Taking the form of a slave,…
He humbled himself,
Becoming obedient to the point of death…

When we think of the two sons in today’s gospel, we should think of the first son, who despite his own selfish refusal, gave up his own self to do the father’s work in the vineyard.  Time and time again in the gospels we are told that it is only in giving up our selves that we will find our true self.


Reading 1. Ezekiel 18: 25-28
Reading II. Philippians 2: 1-11
Gospel. Matthew 21: 28-32 (A man had two sons)

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