Gospel Reflection Sep 27 – Deacon Frank
Sunday, September 27
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 21: 28 – 32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“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 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.”
The two words yes and no may be deceptively small, but they are powerhouses in our vocabulary. Yes is an agreement to a fact, a deed, or a relationship. No is a refusal to accept, act, or commit. When the words came into use, they communicated their meaning in a useful shorthand. Yes was enough to count you in. No made your stance or thoughts on the issue or action perfectly clear.
In this week’s Gospel parable, we have the “story of yes and no”. Jesus tells the story of two sons who each provide a different reply to their father’s request for help in the vineyard. Of course, as we soon see, we cannot take either of these sons at their word. The one who initially refuses to do as his father asks eventually fulfills his responsibility, while the one who instantly agrees to do his father’s will never shows up. Which son gave the right answer?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we should forget swearing oaths, even ones we fully intend to keep. Just say yes or no and claim nothing further. Yes and no serve the purpose of communicating our intentions well enough. If there isn’t integrity behind our words, all the swearing of oaths or making vows to someone won’t help.
Being faithful to God is not only about professing creeds or partaking in ritual acts of worship. We may carry the “I am a Catholic” ID card in our wallets, never miss Sunday Mass, connect the dots of our sacramental life, keep the Ten Commandments and rules of the church scrupulously, and still risk being out of the loop of God’s will. It may seem that we are doing a lot and not saying a lot when we accomplish all this, but Jesus dismissed the Herculean law-keeping of the Pharisees as so much hypocrisy.
In the end, if we fail to wind up in the arms of a loving God, then all our efforts are no more than performance art. Doing yes involves aligning ourselves with the God of love and fulfilling the law of love, broader and deeper than every other authority over our lives. Even Jesus didn’t aim for moral perfection by claiming “…equality with God…”. Instead, he emptied himself, as lovers do, for the sake of the beloved. And his “YES” was declared the PERFECT YES.
-Deacon Frank Iannarino