- Exodus 17:1-17
- Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
- Philippians 2:1-13
- Matthew 21:23-32
In these days of early autumn the parables of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel seem to pile on, one after the other. They are not only histories of confrontation between religious leaders and Jesus; they also function to confront and subvert our accommodations to the world around us as we live in this society.
Today’s parable of a man and his two sons was originally told by Jesus to warn the religious types of his day that they couldn’t afford to be complacent: they might say they were serving God, but all sorts of sinful people were serving God much better. In other words, actions speak louder than words. It is better to repent and obey than to promise obedience and do nothing about it.
Jesus drives home the point with his reference to the repentant tax collectors and harlots, who enter the kingdom of God before the respectable people who ignored John’s message. Before us today is a parable that is both difficult and disturbing in that it holds up a mirror to the way we participate in the violence and distortion that takes place in God’s creation – the vineyard, the world, the church.
- How do our leaders regard today’s outcasts (the poor, uneducated, mentally ill, homeless, prisoners, etc.) who seek to live a righteous life, despite the circumstances they find themselves in?
- Consider the actions of the two sons in today’s parable. Which of the sons do you think ultimately obeyed the will of his father, and why do you think this?
- Reflect on the responses of the two sons in terms of your own relationship with God. How are you sometimes like one or the other? According to this parable, what will be required to enter the Kingdom of heaven?
- The parables of Jesus are meant to turn our human assumptions about life upside down. What comfortable attitudes are challenged by the parable of the two sons?
- In 2011, what will the owner of the vineyard do to the tenants when he comes?
- Look at all of today’s readings. What do each of them suggest about personal responsibility in our relationship to God and others?
The “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) understand that they must look to a source of provision beyond themselves. Such people find the Kingdom; while those who regard themselves as self-sufficient do not receive the highest gift. Christians are called to take on the mind of Christ, full of humility and love for others, and to follow paths of faithfulness.
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)