25th Ordinary Sunday

Audio —

26th Ordinary Sunday     Matthew 21: 28-32

When it was time for the announcements at the end of Mass the new young pastor asked a question “Do you think there should be an evening Bible study?” He was overwhelmed at the response because over fifty persons out of two hundred raised their hands supporting the idea of an evening Bible study. The elated pastor began making plans. A day or two later an experienced Sunday School teacher came to visit the pastor. Gently she advised the young priest that he had asked the wrong question. She said, you should have asked “Are you willing to attend an evening Bible study?” So the next Sunday, after congratulating his parishioners for supporting a weekly Bible study class he asked the question “how many of you are willing to attend the Bible class?” The result was quite different from the week before. This time only twelve persons indicated they would be willing to attend. Today’s readings from the Holy Scripture are about making choices — deciding how to live — saying with our actions what we hold within our hearts.

Let’s set the stage for this gospel. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem, the stage where all the events of his passion and death will take place. He has come to the great temple the place of the presence of God, the heart of Judaism; The first thing Jesus does is become furious and drives out the money changers and the merchants, who blaspheme the holy Temple. The chief-priests and the elders then become very cautious and concerned about Jesus’ presence in the temple. They immediately ask him. “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus then presents them this parable about two sons, the first son is asked to go into the vineyard but he says “no.” He later changes his mind and goes. The second son says “yes, sir I will go” but he never goes. Jesus asks the crowd and the chief-priests, which of the two did the will of the Father? Surely, their correct answer strengthens Jesus’ case against them. The moral of the story becomes crystal clear. There are different types of people in the world. First there are people whose talk is much greater than their actions, for example, many of our politicians today. Then there are those whose actions turn out to be far better than what they have said. But the perfect person is the one whose talk and actions match each other. Jesus is the one who accepts the Father’s orders with grace and humility and then fully carries them out.

The parable teaches us that promises can never take the place of action; that pious words are never a substitute for good deeds. The Christian way is in performance and not promise. The mark of a good Christian is obedience graciously and courteously given.

This parable serves Jesus as a master strategy for defending his honor, which was being questioned; by what authority are you doing these things? It also presents a counter challenge to the chief-priests, the elders and those of us who hear him. The parable hints that their position as leaders of the Chosen People and their observance of the Mosaic Law does not necessarily guarantee that they will possess the kingdom of God. Rather it explains that their pride and their refusal to obey God’s call to repentance will exclude them from that reward. The parable says, do not say you are descendants of Abraham unless you lead a life of faith and obedience as he did. He reminds them of John the Baptist’s call to repentance which they refused to believe but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes did repent and and were baptized with the promise to change their lives.

You and I have answered the call to repentance by accepting baptism and membership in his Church. If we have grown lax in our zeal for the Lord. If we have somehow fallen away from our obedience to God’s law, there is still time. There is time to turn the ship around before we see Jesus face to face. Today we need to look into our conscience and weigh the balance of our lives.  We must turn from evil or even being luke-warm and turn to imitate Christ and how he lived in obedience to the Father. Saying with our actions what we hold within our hearts.