Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: "WHICH OF THE TWO DID THE WILL OF HIS FATHER?"

Mt 21: 28-32

“ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER than words!” This is the phrase which describes that what matters more in life is what we do, and not so much on what we say. Most people are dissatisfied with leaders who are only good in talking. They prefer leaders who can carry out their words of promise.
 
The parable that we hear today emphasizes the importance of deeds over words. The parable of the Two Sons is a parable unique to Matthew's Gospel. There, the father calls one son first to go work in the vineyard. At first, he refuses, but later relents and goes to work. The second son placates the father with a quick nod or yes to go and work, but he never actually goes.
 
Then Jesus asks, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”. At first blush, the answer appears to be straightforward. The first son did the father's will. But if we try to reflect further, we see that both sons brought dishonour to the father, the first by his words, the second by his deeds. Neither of the two sons was in the right. One had the words, and the other had the deeds. 
 
In Matthew’s gospel, there is a sort of emphasis on doing the will of God or of the Father. There is strong connection between hearing and doing. Or between listening and doing. Every hearing should lead to doing. Remember, Mary was pronounced blessed because she does the will of God. And also, Jesus considers those people who do the will of the Father as his “mother, brothers and sisters”. Hearing and doing the will of God is to respect and adhere to Jesus' authority as teacher and Lord. Giving lip service to his teachings is to disrespect the authority of Jesus.
 
In the succeeding explanation of the parable, Jesus contrasted the attitudes of the religious leaders at the time with the attitudes of the tax collectors and prostitutes. The religious leader's lack of belief in John is contrasted with the positive response of tax collectors and prostitutes to his preaching. The point is that the religious leaders who should exemplify uprightness do not believe, while those who are thought to be unrighteous do believe and so enter God's kingdom. 
 
In our day-to-day life, we can easily associate ourselves with the second son who, at first said “yes”, but later “did not go.” When we received the sacrament of baptism, we have given our definitive “yes” to God. But, actually, there were many “yeses” in the rite of baptism. When we were asked to reject Satan and his works, and to believe God, we responded “yes” to those questions. But as we grow older, there were or are many moments that this “yes” has turned into a “no.” We have forgotten our Christian obligations, and we forgot also to spend time with God and to adhere into His teachings.
 
In my reflections, the attitude of the first son is needed here. According to the gospel, the first son said “no”, but later “changed his mind and went.” Most often, in our striving to do the Father’s will, we need a change of mind and heart. In other words, we need a life of conversion and renewal. But this will only happen if we are aware of the reality of sin, and we realize too that we are sinning. If not, then conversion is impossible.
 
“Doing the will of the Father” is one of the important themes that Jesus emphasizes in his teachings. Like for instance, in Mt 7:21, we hear of Jesus saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” It is clear here that our inclusion in the Kingdom of God would largely depend on how we obey the will of God. Doing God’s will is a key to salvation and eternal life. 
 
But for the modern men and women, this is not an easy thing to do. Why? Again, we go back to the theme on freedom. Freedom today has become everything. And most people consider God as curtailing their freedom. Or the teachings of God do not give them freedom. Therefore, doing the will of God is never and has never been on their minds.
 
But St John Paul II teaches, “True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever… It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values.” Thus, for the saintly pope, freedom is connected to the truth. We can only exercise true freedom by following the will of God. Amen.
 

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