26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes
The father in Jesus’ parable has two sons. He tells the first, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” That son refuses but later changes his mind and goes. The father comes to the other son and gives the same command. That son replies, “Yes, sir,” but does not go. When Jesus asks the chief priests and elders which son did the father’s will, they answer, “The first.” Were those Jewish leaders correct? Yes and no.
Yes, it is true that it is better to do the right thing than to merely say the right thing. Nevertheless, it is a father’s will that all his children would do both, obeying in word and deed. In Jesus’ parable, neither son did the father’s will perfectly. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is perfectly faithful to our Father. “However many are the promises of God,” the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “their ‘Yes’ is in him.”
Jesus enters our world saying, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” Though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself and humbly took the form of a servant, assuming our human nature to his Divine Person. He was perfectly obedient to the point of death, even a death by crucifixion. Through Jesus’ obedient, faithful, loving response to his Father’s will, God has exulted him highest among us. We too have said yes to God’s will and given him our word, but we have not been obedient to that same degree.
Many here have vowed before God, ‘I, take you, to be my spouse. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.’ I pledged a similar self-gift on my deaconate and priestly ordination days. And any Catholics who are not in either of these sacramental vocations promise and pledge a gift of themselves when receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. At the turn of the fifth century, St. Augustine noted that when you approach to receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass “you hear the words, ‘the body of Christ’ and you reply ‘Amen’. Be then a member of Christ’s body, so that your ‘Amen’ may accord with the truth… Be then what you see, and receive what you are.” Our Heavenly Father has called to do works of love in our various states of life and we have said, “Yes, sir,” but we have not always done it. Yet there is encouragement for us in today’s gospel.
Jesus notes how tax collectors and prostitutes had not done the will of God preceding the preaching St. John the Baptist. They had disobeyed God’s commands but, through believing, changed their ways and were now entering the Kingdom. Through believing in Christ we also can change. We cannot do it alone, but we were never expected to. Consistently invite Jesus Christ to live his perfect obedience, his intense love, his holy life in you. Then, becoming more like him, you will share more greatly in his exulted glory.