September 27, 2020 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092720.cfm)
Jesus told this parable of the two sons to make a point to his listeners that they may be able to see themselves in the story. The parable is a common situation at home that those who were listening could relate well. The father who asked his sons to be in the vineyard depicts an image of the everyday struggle of parents in motivating their children to follow them. And this kind of domestic situation was being used by Jesus to make his message known and let people know God’s invitation.
Thus, for us this Sunday, let us go deeper into this parable. Let us see the attitudes of the two sons and discover God’s invitation for us today.
The father asked the first son to go and work in the vineyard. However, this son refused and said he will not. This son must be very busy with some other things in his life. He did not want any disturbance from his father. And so the father received an immediate “no” from his son. However, the Gospel told us that “afterwards,” the son changed his mind and went and worked in the vineyard.
The word “afterwards” is very important here. Certainly, the son did not want to be disturbed. He did not want to be challenged by his father. He did not want to participate or to follow what his father said. At that time, what his father told him was insignificant for him. Yet, “afterwards,” he realized something and changed his mind. He changed his attitude and changed the direction of his life.
This “afterwards” of the son was that process of realization on the importance of life. This son who initially refused his father had thought very well the implications of his actions. Not to go and work in the vineyard will not only not be his failure but will affect the entire family. This means that that “afterwards” of the first son became a moment for him to think not just for himself but also for people around him.
This is what St Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Certainly, this “afterwards” made the son to consider others and moved from his own comforts in order to respond to a greater need. Thus, from changing his mind, this allowed him to change his perspective in life and his approach towards life. Moreover, this inspired him too to change his actions that led to transformation. Prophet Ezekiel tells us something about this, “since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live.”
This first son is the image of those sinners like the tax collectors and prostitutes at the time of Jesus who at their encounter with John the Baptist were touched and thought of their life. Indeed, the presence of Jesus made a great impact on their life and moved them to change and transform their life according to God’s desire for them.
However, the second son in the story who was also asked by the father to go and work in the vineyard and said his big “Yes,” did something that must have surprised the father. This second son, though his words must have been a comfort and assurance to the father, revealed later on that he was only filled with pretensions. This son was only concerned in being affirmed. His words were empty. His words were merely a sugar-coating. Yet, his actions revealed different.
This means that this son responded in words but he never listened and never believed. Afterall, what he was after was himself. He was merely concerned of his own interests. He did not consider others.
Indeed, the second son is the image of the religious leaders and elders of the community at that time of Jesus. These were the people who memorized the scriptures, strict in observing rituals yet never changed their minds and attitudes towards others. They never believed in Jesus because believing in Jesus meant moving away from their privileges, moving away from their comforts, challenging the status quo and making themselves less important.
The call of Jesus was too much for them, not good for their self-righteous image, bad for their business. That’s why Jesus criticized their attitudes because they were only full of themselves, full of pretensions. When we become people like these, then, we are only depriving ourselves with true life, with freedom and depriving ourselves with the joy of being with God.
God invites us today to identify ourselves not with the second son but with the first son who like him have said “NO” to the Lord many times. The mistakes, failures and sins we have committed in life were those moments of saying “no” to the Lord. Those were the moments of depriving ourselves with true life, with freedom and joy of being with God. Yet, time and again, God surprises us with His presence and appears before us through people and events to call us once again and to invite us to come closer to him.
God only desires what is good and best for us. God desires that we enjoy a life where we are free and joyful. Hence, never deprive ourselves from these by becoming full of pretensions, full of selfishness. A person who is always pretentious, selfish, always seeking approval and affirmation, advancing his or her personal interest is a very sad and insecure person.
Let us embrace our “afterwards,” those moments of realizations to dwell deeper on the importance of our life, of our relationships , of God, and on how our actions can affect others. By becoming less and less selfish and self-conscious then the more we become loving, life-giving and happy. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR