Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 25:4-9; Psalm 25:4-9; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21 :28-32
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle October 1, 2023
Jesus always spoke to people by using parables, or what today we call stories, that tried to help people understand what the Kingdom of God was really like. This Sunday, we listen to what is perhaps the shortest of the parables told by Jesus. It is so simple, so universal, that we can all see ourselves as one of the two sons. Which son do you think you are like?
I remember, and I'm certain you can too, that when we were children, and our parents asked us to do something, we would say, "In just a minute," then we would forget about it and later find our mother or father doing it. In the story that Jesus tells, the two children are being asked something. Their Father is asking them to go out and work in the vineyard. Now, we all know what vineyards are: where grapes are grown and how they become wine. This vineyard is precious to the family, their only source of income, and work must be done.
In the Old Testament, the vineyard is a symbol of the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. God is at work among His chosen people, and God is taking care of them. It is God's desire to see the vine produce fruit and be prosperous to fill the hearts of the people with joy when they drink this wine. In this story, the children of Israel are being asked to participate in the work of God, to tend the precious vineyard of the Father.
What is the work of God? The work, or the job that has been given to us, is to let everyone know that the Kingdom of God has come. Not that it is coming, but that it has come, in the person of Jesus, called the Christ. Not everyone understands what I’m talking about, and there are also those who don’t care. But let me make myself clear: the Kingdom of God has come; you and I are living in this moment, and we have been given by God a job to do.
However, the two sons do not understand this calling that they have been privileged to receive from God. Nor do they understand the urgency of the work ahead of them: "I’ll do it in a minute, in just a minute." The truth is that both sons are disobedient to the will of the Father. The Father's invitation is loving, but it is met by rudeness from the first son. And although the second son is respectful and reverent, he remains unmoved. It is like empty reverence, "Ok, I’ll get around to it in my own time."
The first son is concerned only with his own problems; he does not see beyond himself, while the second son speaks beautiful words that end up also disconnected from the Father's will. In the same way, each of us has disobeyed the will of our Father, and that's okay. The Father does not demand the perfection of His children.
It's okay not to be perfect, but what is not okay is to stay where you are and do nothing, to not continue walking on our life journey. We need conversion; we need to change; we need to get back on the path and continue our journey. We cannot stay in our own beautiful little world and do nothing, for that prevents us from recognizing the Father's will. We remain unmoved by the work that God wants to bring about in the vineyard.
Today, as I speak, several thousand people are gathering in Rome because Pope Francis is opening what is called the Synod assembly. The Synod is an exercise of listening to the Holy Spirit and recognizing the will of God for the vineyard, for God's Church. The Synod calls us to let God's voice touch our hearts so that we can get up from our couch or favorite chair and respond.
However, there are those among and around us who view the Synod as being of no value. There are priests, especially Bishops and Cardinals in our own country, who see no reason for them to be listening to the concerns, views, or understanding of us, the children of God. God, however, speaks to us, God's children, and God asks that we not only hear but that we put into practice the work God is asking us to do.
Despite having rejected God's will at first, we can now embrace God's dream, God's plan, and finally accept this privilege of bringing about God's Kingdom. The Father calls to each of us, "My child, go out and work in the vineyard today." No matter what our response has been in the past, whether it was rude or empty reverence, whether it was outright rejection or beautiful words, whether it was, "In a little bit, I'll do it later," today, we have the opportunity to be touched by God's dream.
We can go and work in God's precious vineyard and be on our way to making it a reality.