September 24, 2017

Reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Parable of the Two Sons

The Parable of the Two Sons

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

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

A man had two sons. He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his
mind and went. (Mt 21:29)

How well Jesus understood human nature! Often in the parables He used images and ideas from the everyday life of His listeners. For example, many parables used agricultural images such as shepherds, sheep, and seeds. Today’s parable speaks of parenting. There are two sons. Sent to the vineyard, one said yes, and never showed up. The other said no, recanted, and then went to work in the vineyard. How many parents have been in the man’s position and heard similar responses from their children? Jesus knows the human person so well.

The lesson of this parable is conversion. Jesus goes on to say that prostitutes and tax collectors will make it to heaven before the Pharisees. Why? They are the children who start their journeys by saying “no” and later they experience the Lord, convert, and mend their ways. The Pharisees say “yes” originally to the invitation of the Lord, but never change their ways. Their “yes” is hollow; it has no meaning and does not affect their lives or behavior.

The man sending his sons to the vineyard is God, who is inviting His children into a life of faith. Some will start that journey refusing to listen. Over the course of time, they will somehow experience God and make faith the center of their lives. Others will say yes immediately, but do not have the wherewithal or strength to persevere in the journey. The “journey” spoken of here can be a lifelong decision about following Jesus; it can also be a short-term decision concerning a particular situation.

The journey of faith is tough! It takes resolve, patience, prayer, and perseverance to stay the course. Why? Following God is a matter of the heart. In prayer, the human person is called upon to unite herself with Jesus, who then walks the journey with her. That journey will take that person over Golgotha to the empty tomb of hope, the resurrection. The person commits herself to faith on a daily basis. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision in which fingers are snapped and the person is forever following Christ in all of her actions, words, and beliefs. If only it were so simple! Today, in the here and now, I am called upon to live my life of faith as a person of prayer and service to others. Today I may do well. Tomorrow might be a different story! Each day is a new beginning in the journey with and toward Christ. While it is the journey of a lifetime, it can be hard and difficult.

Honesty is very important in the journey of faith. Most people can see themselves in both sons of the parable. At times, the person may make a deliberate choice not to follow one of Christ’s teachings in a particular situation. Partway down that wrong road, the person begins to feel a tug in the depths of his heart and soul. Something is wrong. At that time, the person makes a change and follows Christ. Conversion has taken place. It also happens that the person sometimes takes the path of the second son. Enthusiastically desiring to follow Christ, the person makes a commitment to do so, only to fail miserably, due to a weak spirit or lack of commitment or perseverance.

Life is about conversions, big and small. Each day the person must make the commitment to follow Christ, today, at work, at school, at home, among those the person likes and dislikes. This kind of commitment takes prayer. It is only in spending time with the Lord in quiet contemplation that the person will know the Lord well, and thus be able to follow Him unreservedly. Ultimately, the follower of Christ does not want to be either son of today’s parable. Instead, he wants to say “yes” to following Christ, and then go forth and live the teachings of Christ in his life. It is the ultimate goal of the Christian journey of faith. Make that your prayer today and all days.

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