26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Mt. 21: 28-32 – Oct 01, 2017

When someone turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life" “´Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.´ He said, ´I will not,´ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. “

Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish writer, wrote a novel titled "The Picture of Dorian Gray." In the novel, Dorian Gray is a handsome young man who envies his own portrait because it will never grow old. He makes an agreement with the Devil, he sells his own soul to the Devil, but he will never change, as his portrait will. Dorian retains his youth and beauty even though he undertakes a dissolute and sinful life. At the end he encounters the portrait. While Dorian remained beautiful, his portrait had changed. Dorian sees the extremely ugly face and understands that it represents his true inner self. He attacks the painting with a knife. When people hear the noise, they come running and discover the portrait restored to its original beauty. Next to the portrait they see the body of an old man, horribly disfigured, too horrible to see. We may think that Oscar Wilde learned a lesson from his own novel. His life is an image of Dorian Gray. He made a death bed conversion and received the sacrament of confession just before he died.

It is what happens to all of us. What is important is not our external appearance, what is important is our final state before God. Today's short parable has been called “the Better of Two Bad Sons.” The meaning is clear. The first son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father ordered, is a type for sinners at the time of Jesus. When they heard Jesus, they changed their lives. Matthew knows what he is writing about. Jesus addresses this parable to the chief priests and elders of the people.    The second son, who says yes to the father but does not obeyed, represents the religious authorities and the Pharisees of the day who used many words but were short on deeds.

People might ask about the fairness of all this: “How can a choice that one makes at the end of life determine where one spends eternity?” Some could say it is unjust, but God tells us through the prophet Ezekiel: "Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? (…) When someone turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life"

Today´s parable is about obedience and disobedience. It tells us about the choices we make during our life. The first son represents the outsiders of Israel, Gentiles, who said no to God at the beginning, but then responded positively to Jesus; then were the tax collectors and prostitutes who were more open to the message of Jesus.

The second son represents the established religion, which was in place when Jesus came, or he could represent us today if our religion is only conventional. In other place of the Gospel Jesus complains that religious leaders of his time paid lip-service to God, but were unable to do justice and respect to others. Jesus once said: “Do what they tell you, but do not do what they do”. The point of the parable is that pride and self-righteousness are a greater obstacles to true conversion than a sinful past open to conversion.

Example is always the best sermon. It is only by actions that we tell whether we are genuine or artificial. During our life and at the end of it, it is only by deeds that we prove what we are. Here are some quotations:

Someone said that “the first part of the paper he read was the sports section. He wanted to read about people doing something rather than politicians promising something.”

A wise man once said, "I cannot hear what you say because I am too busy listening to what you are!"

“Lighthouses by definition make no noise. They just shine.” That's our job.

“Christ, it is said, is not a psychiatrist. He is a cardiologist. He listens not to words but to hearts.”

Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary use words”.

Today´s Gospel has a message similar to last Sunday: What matters is our final state. We remember last Sunday, what counted was not the amount of time a person had worked in the vineyard, but whether he has worked in the vineyard to the end of the day. Today the parable of the Gospel says that a person might say "yes" to God and later changes his mind by disobedience. Or, vice versa, a person might say "no" to God, but later be saved by an act of repentance and obedience.

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