26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - A
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. We listen to something audible; sometimes we also listen in silence. When we say we obey God, we listen to him and do his will.
In the beginning God spoke his Word; it was called Dabar Yahweh. In the New Testament, the Word became flesh (Jn 1:14). The Word who was now a human being spoke the words of man in order to communicate with man in the language that connected God and man. His words were creative just like at the beginning when God spoke his Word to create everything.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God so that we are able to listen to God when he speaks to us. But 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 initial 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 were the masters of the Law and the Prophets; because they knew the Mosaic Law they thought they were obeying the commandments. Because of that, they always believed 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 outcast. At first, their response was negative which was represented by their sinful ways but when they encountered Jesus they amended their lives and obeyed him. By a reversal of fortune they were now considered the first son in the parable.
Christianity is not a religion of the book but a religion of the Incarnate and living Word of God. This is how Christianity differs from the other world religions like Islam whose belief is centered around the Koran. Catholics also 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 down there was already the Church alive in her oral tradition. Some of these oral traditions were written down and became the written tradition which eventually became the Bible we have now.
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 speaking to us and when he 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 to God.
Our yes is challenged when we go out into the world, in our workplace, in our homes, etc. where we incarnate the Word we heard of in the concrete manifestations of our faith. It is not just the audible yes that we say in our prayers which make us obedient children of God but how we are able to translate that yes in the events of our daily lives.
None of the two sons in the parable are models of obedience because both were imperfect. The 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. It was the unwavering obedience of Jesus to the will of the Father that saved us. Religious men and women also take the vow of obedience in imitation of the obedience of Jesus to the Father. As we obey, we listen to the Word speaking to us either audibly or in silence in a continuous encounter that entails "unselfing" just like Jesus emptying himself. Listening to the other strange voices will only lead us astray.
“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 by Kahlil Gibran).