26th Sunday, O T Year A – 17
Eze.18:25-28/ Phil.2:1-11/ Matt.21:28-32
Life has many contradictions, many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes. What may seem to be a good thing may turn out bad. What may seem to be a bad thing may turn out good. But we can only see the present in its limitation, we can only comprehend the here and now.
We don’t know about the future, so we judge everything as good and bad according to how we see it now. For example, if one of our children is rather slow, or naughty, or not very pleasing to us.
What will be our attitude towards that child, as compared to the rest of our children who might be cleverer, or smarter, or better looking or more capable? Surely, we will favor the “better” one.
As for the other one, we will just have to accept him although we will not have much hopes or expectations from him. Yet, life has shown us over and over again that there are many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes.
This is also a recurring theme in the Bible, that the first will be last and the last first. Jesus told parables like the rich man and Lazarus, the prodigal son, the workers in the harvest (last week) to tell us about the paradoxes and reversals in life.
Today he told another parable of two sons and their obedience to their father. The father asked both sons to go and work in the vineyard. The first said no but later changed his mind and went. The other said yes but yet did not go.
Jesus actually addressed this parable to the chief priests and elders. The tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners were like the first son.
They sinned, but when they heard the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness, they repented and turned back to God.
On the other hand, the chief priest and the elders were like the second son who said yes to all that God has commanded but yet did nothing to change their lives.
In many ways, this parable is also addressed to us to make us reflect on how we view people and how we treat them. If I were asked what the main theme of today’s reading were all about I would say it’s about honest sincerity.
Honesty is at the core of our truly religious expressions, particularly being honest with ourselves. Sin, we must remember, originates with the Father of Lies, and when we lie to ourselves we always get into deep trouble.
In the Gospel account, we just heard the younger brother tell his father: “Yes, I’ll go and work” while the older brother said: “No, not me.” Both used words contrary to their actions.
Talk is cheap. The younger brother simply didn’t live up to his words; the older brother changed his mind. The older brother had integrity; the younger brother gave cheap, valueless words to his father while having no intention at all of working.
How many of us recognize ourselves in that younger brother? The older brother had no intention of working and then had the honesty of saying so to his father. He was wrong, but he was honest.
The younger brother was the opposite. He said the expedient thing to his father knowing what his father wanted to hear but he had no integrity. He was insincere because he had no intention of working even though he said he would.
How many of us pray that way? We give God the words of our prayers, words we think He wants to hear from us. It’s convenient for us. We may even be self-deluded when we speak them and end up feeling like we are pious and religious.
On the surface, we feel righteous but deep down we know full well that we are not going to follow through on those words with our deeds and our actions. So, we give God our Father in heaven nice sounding words but never seem to get around to following through on them.
God is not fooled but we fool ourselves. The reality of life is that we favor those who are more pleasing to us, but we are indifferent or ignore those whom we think do not meet our hopes and expectations.
There is a story of a couple, who had a few children. All were normal and intelligent. Except one who had Down’s Syndrome and hence was slow and different from the rest.
The couple took joy in their children but for this special child, they had to swallow their disappointment and embarrassment. At times, they even asked themselves why they were burdened with such a child.
It seems that they will have to care for him all their lives. As the years went by, the rest of their children got married and left home to start their own families. As the couple became older, their children also became busier with their own families.
Naturally, the couple felt lonelier with all their children gone. Except for one, the slow “special” one. Because of his inabilities and disabilities, he obviously had to stay with his parents.
In the past, the parents thought of him as a burden and an obstacle to their freedom in life. But now, the old couple realized that he is the only one who is with them day and night.
Once upon a time, he had to depend on them and they had to fend for him. Now it seems that in their lonely old age, it is they who have to depend on him despite his inabilities and disabilities. It is just another story about how life has many paradoxes and reversals of fortune or status.
Let us not ignore these whom we think are of little or no use to us or those who are not pleasing to us and give us problems. God loves these people as much as He loves us.
And the paradox of life is that God will turn these people into His instruments to show us His love. So, let us accept those whom we think may not count for much in life. A time will come when they will show us what really counts in life. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.