Ezek 18:25-28, Ps 24:4-5,6-7,8-9 (6a), Phil 2:1-11, Mt 21:28-32
By Bro. Errol Salcedo, CJM
The Gospel for today reminds us of the two parables: (1) Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32) which talks about the unconditional love and mercy of God the Father; and, (2) The Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30) that focuses on the different responses of the individuals on the gifts they received and responsible of. As a continuation of the Gospel of Matthew’s account, the Lord Jesus used the parable to answer the question of the chief priests and elders of the law, “by what authority are you doing all of these things?”(Mt. 21:23) - the Gospel passage before this Gospel. He answered, “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, “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.” (Mt. 21:28-32). Reflecting on this Gospel passage, I am drawn into the attitudes of there (3) characters in the Parable:
(1) Gracious and Merciful Father
This non-judgmental character of the father of two sons reminds me of the compassionate and merciful Father of the prodigal son - Our Father in Heaven. He never said anything when his son rejected His appeal. He respected the freedom of the person. Nowadays, how many fathers are doing this? When we make an appeal to our children and they answered no, how do we handle that? Are we going to shout and beat them because they do not follow our appeal? The father in the Gospel never said anything when the son did not follow his invitation. He respected the person’s freewill. Our gracious God is also like that, “He is always merciful and just, slow to anger and abounding in love and compassion.”(Ps 116:5) The Book Ezekiel, from the First Reading also added that Yahweh never change his loving plan for us, “Why Israel! Is my position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong? (Ez18:25).” It is the mercy and compassion of God that makes the person merciful and loving to others. This character of compassionate and merciful father led me to the reaction of the son.
(2) The First and Renewed Son
We come to know the attitude of the first son when he was invited by His Father, he said, “I will not come,” but later he come. It is good to realized when we do things according to freedom and greatest desire to love. This son can be identified to anyone of us, “a stubborn, indifferent and insensitive child,” but the genuine and unconditional love of the father pushed him to decide and participate in the perichoresis (giving and receiving) of love. Our young generation nowadays need this kind of love – a love that is unconditional and freely given so that, in their own way, they may also offer their lives freely and unconditionally. How nice it is when all of us live in a community centered in love and self-giving rather than hate and selfish motives.
(3) Second and Challenged Son
The second son said “yes, I will come,” but he never come. When we become a people-pleaser, our tendency is to say “yes” all the time just to please anybody. There are two things that we could reflect here: (a) Pleasing somebody is not a virtue. Feels like we live for other people’s opinion and not anymore living for our own direction. The invitation of the Gospel today is to inculcate in our minds and our hearts that our God respects the freedom and decision of every person. Whether we say yes or no, it doesn’t matter for him. What matters is the person who said it. God never imposed anything but respects everybody. There are times that we feel pressured and become people pleaser, let us remember that we always have the freedom to say yes and no. It is the gift free will and no one could take it from us. (b) Saying “yes” all the time does not mean we place our full and conscious attention. Remember that our yes is our promise to other people. When we say yes without giving our best, it is like we never give our self fully. This is a good reminder for everybody, “there is no problem in saying “no”. Saying no is never bad especially when you say it according to your situation with due respect to yourself and to other people.
Therefore, the Gospel is inviting and challenging us today of the following:
(1) To bear in mind and heart that God loves us unconditionally.
(2) Our human response always comes from our freedom and greatest desire to love and be loved.
(3) Our “yes” in every invitation must always be centered in the love of God and love of neighbor.
In this way, we could be one with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love with all my soul.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.