September 28, 2014 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We all know and understand that Jesus taught with parables. Depending upon how you count them, there are as many as 40 in the New Testament and most scholars believe that 23 of them are included in the Gospel of Matthew. Over the last few weeks and continuing today we have heard a series of parables proclaimed in Matthew, Chapter 21.
The Parable of the Two Sons (today’s Gospel) again presents us with what we may find a disputable conclusion, at least in terms of how we interpret things based upon our understanding of life as we know it. That parable follows the themes of God’s way versus our way and the idea of humility as an important aspect of stewardship.
Ezekiel, you may recall, was a prophet who was held captive in Babylon and wrote his prophecies between 593 and 571 B.C. The prophet takes great pains to point out to us that God is always in the right, which may mean that we are often in the wrong. Ezekiel anticipates the conflict we will feel in the parables Jesus gives us — one which reminds us over and over that God’s way is not necessarily our way. One of the basic stewardship messages we may hear consistently involves the fact that we are gifted, and the true measure of how we live is how we use those gifts to help those in need and to build our own faith communities. We must always remember nevertheless that our use of those gifts is measured on God’s terms, not ours.
St. Paul has fond feelings toward the Philippians. It was Paul who established their Christian community, and it is Paul who reminds them through his letters what he feels they must do to maintain and develop that Christian community. His message is as applicable to us today as it was to them. Paul puts it bluntly to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” Someone once said that there is no room for egos in the stewardship way of life. Paul knew that; he knew that a community factionalized by power or control or pride could not truly be followers of Jesus. It is a question we must constantly ask ourselves: “Am I doing this for the glory it will bring me, or am I doing this because I love others?” We are called to love over and over.
Jesus knows what our motivations are. That is His point in the Parable of the Two Sons. One son refuses to go work in the vineyard, but then has second thoughts, and goes and works. The other son assures his father that he will go work in the vineyard, but then does not. Jesus asks simply, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Of course, we, like the disciples to whom the Lord posed the question, can immediately perceive that it is the son who did work in spite of his initial refusal. The point of the parable is that God does not want “lip service” from us; He wants commitment and dedication and fulfillment. He wants us body and soul. It is how we live that will show God we love Him and that we love those around us. It is not what we say, but it is very much what we do. What we do is stewardship.