The parable of the two sons

MATTHEW  21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, 28“What is your opinion? 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 he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

He changed His mind

In the First Reading, the people of Israel complain to Ezekiel that God’s ways are unfair because Ezekiel prophesies that the house of Israel will be exiled to Babylon, Birthdays Anton Martinez Elvie Sagum Weddings Albert - Aileen Sunga Special Intentions Memorials and that God will allow the destruction of their city and the Temple. The prophet argues that the Israelites are themselves responsible for the punishment that will befall upon them because they have acted like a promiscuous woman, rebellious and violent, more sinful than Sodom. Later, the Judahites will reform and change their ways because of the prophet’s preaching; and the Lord will create a new Israel, enlivened by a new heart and imbued with a new spirit (cf Ez 40—48). Then the Lord will recreate the land, restore the Temple, and establish a new covenant—“for the sake of his name and promise”—because he is the Lord. God’s way of righteousness is strange; God’s judgment scrutinizes man’s heart as well as man’s actions. God’s verdict balances justice and repentance. God gives weight to repentance and change of heart, and faithfulness to the covenant. When the upright man renounces his integrity, he dies. When the sinner turns away from sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live (cf vv 26-27). In the Second Reading, we find God’s way of righteousness even more baffling. Paul admonishes the Philippians to be united in Spirit and to imitate Christ— who acts in love with compassion and mercy—to be selfless and humble, to serve one another as if they serve Christ, to be obedient to the Father even to the point of death as the ultimate sacrifice. The Christian hymn in vv 6-11 summarizes the redemptive love of Jesus Christ in his double act of humiliation (kenosis = self-emptying) and exaltation to the glory of God. Christ’s incarnation is seen as lowering himself in the form of man as an act of obedience to the Father, for “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God.” This is in contrast to Adam’s attitude of disobedience in Gn 3:5-6, wanting to have equality with God. It is because of Christ’s obedience, manifesting the overflowing love of God, that humanity is justified, made righteous, and exalted as adopted children with the Son of God; thus, one with God. In the Gospel, the parable of the Two Sons illustrates what real obedience means. When one makes a promise or vow or covenant, one must fulfill one’s word by showing it in action. The righteousness and uprightness of the person is seen in the consistency between the person’s words and actions. Ezekiel demands of the house of Israel compliance with the covenant with God; it is not enough to feign piety while they worship idols. In Matthew’s time, Jesus castigates the scribes and Pharisees with stern statements, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites” (Mt 23:13ff). “For they preach but they do not practice” (Mt 23:3). But to sinners Jesus gives second chances, as long as they repent of their sins and follow the law of love of God and neighbor.

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