True servants 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mt 21:28-32
28 “Now, what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the elder one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 ‘I don’t want to,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, but he did not go. 31 Which one of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The elder one,” they answered.
So Jesus said to them, “I tell you: the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John the Baptist came to you showing you the right path to take, and you would not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. Even when you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
Other readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25:4-9; Philippians 2:1-11
To help us understand this parable we need to look back to events earlier in the chapter. Matthew 21 opens with Jesus arriving in Jerusalem to a hero’s welcome. Some people proclaim him to be “David’s Son”, the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus then causes chaos in the Temple, overturning tables, sending Temple money flying and driving away the people who were buying and selling.
Not surprisingly, the chief priests and elders want to know what authority he has to act in this way (verse 23). Jesus replies by asking them a loaded question about John the Baptist that leaves them floundering (verses 25-27).
Jesus then reinforces his point to the religious leaders by telling them this parable of the two sons. The father asks his elder son to work in his vineyard. This son begins by refusing but later has a change of heart and goes to work. The other son agrees initially but his actions don’t match his words. He doesn’t follow through. The religious leaders are led to conclude that it is the elder son who actually did what his father wanted.
Jesus then reveals that it is the prostitutes and tax collectors who are the elder son. While they initially rejected God’s call to serve him, they have had a change of heart. They accepted John’s message. They accept Jesus’s teaching. They repent and start living the kingdom lifestyle.
This parable gives us the opportunity to review our relationship with God. If we initially said “yes” to him, are we continuing to obey him? Are we merely keeping up an outward appearance of serving him but really just doing what we want?
Consider how God wants you to serve him at this time in your life. How are you responding to his call?
What can we learn from this parable about God’s grace and our attitudes to others?
Make your own response to God. You may find these verses from Psalm 25:5, 9-10 a helpful prayer: “Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them his will. With faithfulness and love he leads all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.”
Read Philippians 2:1-11. Meditate on the wonderful description of Jesus’s humility and greatness in verses 5-11. Now consider your response to Paul’s exhortation: “Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble towards one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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