26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 (R. 1: Ezekiel 18: 25- 28; Psalm 25: 4- 9; R. 2: Philippians 2: 1- 11; Gospel: Matthew 21: 28- 32)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
IF TODAY YOU HEAR HIS VOICE…!
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is in his final days in Jerusalem. It began with his “Triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, after which he entered the Temple and he drove out those who were buying and selling in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers because they were turning the Temple, his Father’s House, a place of prayer for all peoples, into a market place and a den of thieves. The religious leaders saw what Jesus did as an attack on their authority.
When Jesus returned to the Temple the next day, the chief priests and elders of the people decided to fight back. For them, this son of a carpenter had vandalized the Temple the previous day, and he was courageous enough to return to the same Temple less than 24 hours later. So they started looking for a way to get Jesus to say something that would implicate him. Jesus then went on to tell them three parables. The first of the three parables is in today’s Gospel passage. When Jesus tells some of such parables, he makes his listeners to make a judgment, to evaluate the characters in the story. Usually, they give a quick response before they realize that they just passed a judgment against themselves.
Today’s parable talks about two sons of the same father; the first said “no” to his father’s command, but later on, he thought about it, and he did what his father asked him to do. The second one said “yes” to his father’s command but he did not do it. Jesus asked his listeners, “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?” Without recognizing the trap, they answered, “The first son.” Then Jesus went on to open their eyes to the interpretation of the parable. By profession, the chief priests and elders of the people were supposed to be close to God; they had said “yes” to God, while by profession, the tax collectors and prostitutes were supposed to be far from God, they had said “no” to God. When John the Baptist came, the tax collectors and prostitutes saw God at work in him, they believed his message and they made positive changes in their lives like the first son. But when the religious leaders encountered John the Baptist, they hardened their hearts, and they refused to amend their lives. They were like the second son who said “yes” but did “no” in his action.
During the celebration of the Mass, God, like the father in the parable, speaks to us in the readings and the homily, telling us what he wants us to do in his vineyard. After the homily, we recite the creed, where we, as God’s children, say “Yes” to all that God has said in the readings. We profess our belief in all God the Father has said to us, through his Son Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We say “Yes,” to all God keeps telling us through his Church. At the end of the Mass, the priest/deacons says the ite, missa est, “Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” By that, the priest/deacon is reminding us that since we have said, “Yes,” at Mass, our actions after Mass must correspond with what we professed at Mass. We must not be like the second son who said, “Yes,” but his action contradicted what he promised his father.
Although the first son was better than the second son, there was some sort of imperfection in each of them. Each was negative either in word or in action. For this reason, St. Paul, in the second reading presents us with a third Son, who is the best and the perfect Son, the one most worthy of emulation. Paul says,
Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus; though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 1-11).
Yes, Jesus Christ, the perfect Son, said “Yes” to his Father in heaven, and he came to earth and put the “yes” into practice by dying on the cross for us. He is the perfect one that we must emulate. Maybe we have failed in the past in our attempt to emulate him; there is hope for us. The first reading assures us that if we turn from our wickedness and begin to do things that are right, God will preserve our lives. None of us is perfect yet. We keep working on it. Maybe that is why we are “Practicing Catholics.” We continue to practice until we become perfect by the grace of God. We must ensure that each new day finds us better than the previous one. And as Scripture says, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8).