Homily of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus, the perfect example

In many cases our actions do not tally with our words. At times, we say YES when we actually mean NO. This is shown in today’s Gospel centred on the parable of the two sons. One refuses the assignment of his father, but later on, goes to do it. The second son immediately says ‘yes’ but ends up not yielding to the father’s bidding.

The first Son showed in the first glance arrogance and defiance. He never gave his father his word, but later on, surely after reflecting and meditating, he gave him his action. He underwent a transformation and a change for the better. His “no” changed to a “yes”. This first son is likened to tax collectors and prostitutes that are making their way into the kingdom of God before those who claim to be righteous. This is because they admitted their sinfulness and unrighteousness, accepted John the Baptist’s call to repentance and changed their hearts. This is understood in Jesus word about the true disciple who will enter the kingdom of Heaven: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). The focus thus is on the “change of heart” and the “doing of God’s will”. True righteousness then consists in repentance: that is a humble admission of one’s sinfulness. Humility helps one to recognize his fault and change his heart

The second son who was prompt to say yes, without doing his father’s bidding is akin to the Pharisees, chief priests and scribes. They saw themselves as in a place of privilege, the first ones chosen by God, and those who actually obeyed the Father’s will. In the real sense, they are not the ones who have obeyed their heavenly Father, but the tax collectors and prostitutes are! They represent those who said “Yes” only in words and ended there! They never did the will of God.

Both sons in a way are imperfect! Imagine you telling your son to do something, and in front of your visitors and friends he blatantly says NO! This is an embarrassing situation. Your friends will see you as a very week person, incapable of teaching good manners to your son who can contradict your bidding. Even if this son goes to work later, it will not change the fact that he earlier disobeyed. It is assumed however that he asked for forgiveness and the merciful God wiped away all his sins. Isaiah 1:18 says “though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow”. So in a strict sense both sons are imperfect examples though the first is infinitely to be preferred. John Rose explains this beautifully thus: “Promise without performance is bad, but performance with initial defiance is also not desirable”.

Jesus is the one who gives us the perfect example of a Son. When sent by the Father he said YES. He not only said yes by his word but through his action. The apex of today’s reflection thus lies in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:5-11. It is the most moving passage that Saint Paul has ever written about Christ. This is known as the Christological hymn. Jesus was forever God, but He emptied Himself of his divinity. He became a human being. More than this, he became a slave for all of us. Jesus obeyed His Father for our sake, even when this obedience led to His death on the cross.

Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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