26th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
Recorded at the Australian Catholic Radio Online:
In the beginning God spoke his Word; it was called Dabar Yahweh. In the New Testament, the spoken Word became flesh (Jn 1:14). The Word who was now a human being spoke the words of man. His words were creative just like at the beginning when God spoke his Word to create everything.
Our gospel this Sunday is about obedience. The word obedience comes from the Latin words ab audire which means to listen. Obedience comes from listening. How do we listen to the Word of God now that he has become human like us? The parable of the two sons answers this question. When the father summoned the first son to the vineyard, he refused and yet later on he went. The response of the second son was positive but later on did not go. When asked who between the two sons obeyed the father, Jesus’ hearers replied “the first son”.
The Scribes and the Pharisees to whom the parable was addressed to, were the masters of the Law and the Prophets. They believed that because they knew the Mosaic Law they were obeying the commandments. Because of that, they always thought that they were righteous more than the rest. But when they came face to face with the Living Word, they refused to hear his message. They represented the second son who said yes but did not go to the vineyard.
The Gentiles and sinners were considered outcasts. At first, their response was negative which was represented by their sinful ways but when they met Jesus they amended their lives and obeyed him. By reversal of fortune they are now considered the first son in the parable.
Christianity is not a religion of the book but a religion of the Word of God, of the Incarnate and living Word. This is how we Catholics differ from the other Christian sects whose belief is in the centrality of the written Word which they call “Sola Scriptura”. Before the books of the New Testament were written there was already the Church alive in her oral tradition. We believe in the Word Incarnate who speaks when the scriptures is proclaimed in the assembly through our liturgy.
It is in the liturgy when we hear the Word speaks to us and as speaks he re-creates us as an individual person and as a community. We listen to the Word and in the liturgy we say AMEN which is our way of saying YES.
Our yes is challenged when we go out into the world, in our workplace, in our homes, etc. This is where we incarnate the Word that we heard in the concrete manifestations of our faith. It is not the yes that we say in our prayers that we will be saved but how we are able make that yes concrete in our daily lives.
Actually none of the two sons in the parable are models of obedience. Our perfect model is Jesus who, in obedience to the will of his father, “emptied himself… accepting death, death on the cross,” as St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians in the second reading today.
As Kahlil Gibran says “When love beckons to you follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams…. (The Prophet)