Lector's Notes
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Ezekiel is very contentious here. He deserves a vigorous proclamation. A good way to deliver this in your Sunday congregation would be to imagine you are Jesus in that heated discussion with the chief priests and elders. Their arrogance is getting to you, so you reach in your pocket, pull out your copy of Ezekiel, open it and say, “Oh yeah? Well, listen to this: ‘You say the Lord’s way is not fair! Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way or your way that’s unfair? . . .'” Don’t be afraid to sound vehement. Ezekiel wasn’t; he was talking (and you’ll be reading) about issues of life and death.

Second Reading

The English translation available to us doesn’t seem poetic or worthy of singing. Until the right poet/musician comes along who can render the passage more beautifully, it’s up to you speak it faithfully, with the solemnity that its venerable status calls for. (Tony Carlin, Music and Liturgy Director of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Napa, California, U.S.A, says the right poet/musician may have arrived. He recommends “Ken Canedo’s new ‘Jesus Christ Is Lord’ (OCP [Oregon Catholic Press]) – we’re singing it this weekend [September 24-25, 2011]. Also, of course, Walker’s better-known ‘At The Name Of Jesus’ (OCP).”)

Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Early Hebrews liked to believe that children inherit the guilt for their ancestors’ sins, and that sinners cannot really reform. In prior verses, Ezekiel demolishes these traditional beliefs. But this makes the people respond that God’s ways are unfair!

Second Reading

Paul tells his dear friends that what will endear them to him even more is if they behave like Christ. Then he describes Christ by quoting an even older Christian hymn.

Gospel

Jesus upbraids the religious leaders of his day for failing to recognize the hand of God at work in events of their lives.

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

Click image to watch

FIRST READING

The Judgment of the Righteous

Why is it easy to judge others harshly? How can we easily judge others or excuse our own sinfulness? How does God’s thinking differ from ours?

PSALM

The Path of the Lord

How smooth or rough has your spiritual path been over the past year? How do you feed your spirit every day? How have your efforts given you comfort, even in the tough times?

SECOND READING

Living the Way We Worship

How hard do you find putting the self interests of others ahead of your own? Why is this difficult? How can we align our faith and our actions? How can we live our lives the same way our Savior did?

GOSPEL

True Change

How difficult is true moral change? What stops us from moral change? Why? How has God called you to change? What changes can you see in your life from God’s call? What changes can you see in others’ lives from the call of the Lord? Where you think you hear the call of the Lord in your life? How is God leading you to change? Pray for the wisdom to clearly discern the Lord’s voice and the power to change.
INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

"When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die." — Ezekiel 18:26

The overall focus of Chapter 18 of Ezekiel is personal responsibility. The prophet wants the exiles to know that they will not be held responsible for their parents’ sins, only for their own sins. Hence, the virtuous who sin and sinners who repent will receive consequences connected to their actions.—Fr. Tobin

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Responsorial Psalm

"Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long." — Psalm 25:4-5

This psalm speaks beautifully of God’s compassion for the sinner who turns to him. The note of conversion—as the Psalmist sees his own sins in the light of God’s goodness—makes this psalm a suitable accompaniment to the change of heart mentioned in the first and third readings. —Fr. Tobin

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Second Reading

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. — Philippians 2:3-4

Christ’s compassion, his solidarity with humanity was such that he took on everything that was human so that humanity could see what we are invited to become.—Sr. Mary

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Gospel

"Go out and work in the vineyard today."— Matthew 21:28

There are those who have said a firm “Yes” early on in life, but then, they have gradually slipped into an effective “No” as the attraction to sin has entangled them in its webs. Also, there are still those sinners who repent and make a commitment to God and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. — Fr. Clement

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commentary

"When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die." — Ezekiel 18:26

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First Reading

Ezekiel 18:25-28

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Personal responsibility

FIRST READING—The historical context for this reading is Ezekiel addressing his fellow Israelites who are in exile in Babylon. They believe that they are being punished for the sins of their ancestors. This is why the reading begins with the statement: “The Lord’s way is not fair!” The overall focus of Chapter 18 of Ezekiel is personal responsibility. The prophet wants the exiles to know that they will not be held responsible for their parents’ sins, only for their own sins. Hence, the virtuous who sin and sinners who repent will receive consequences connected to their actions. This is also the message in the Gospel that Jesus is seeking to teach people. Our ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to him will have consequences.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

We are responsible for our own actions

FIRST READING—The readings today describe the behaviour of the disciple. Chapter 18 of Ezekiel is about personal responsibility. In Ezekiel’s world there are no shades of grey when it comes to behaviour. He speaks only of the virtuous or the wicked. The virtuous are those who follow God’s way. The wicked are those who do not.

The important message is that we are responsible for our own actions. As a child can’t blame a parents for its actions, neither can a parent blame a child.

God, says Ezekiel, has no memory. A life of wickedness is wiped our when the person turns to God. That means God is not concerned with what we did at eighteen or fifty. It’s where our heart is now that matters.

According to Ezekiel if God shows a preference it is for the poor person who struggle with a weakness ahead of the good person who gives up a life of virtue for a passing fancy.

Ezekiel was a prophet of the exile so his message is uncompromising. If the people were to retain their faith and culture they could not afford to be half-hearted. What do we make of this message today? Are we being true to the message of Vatican II in times when many seek to return to understandings of church which are out of sync. with the Gospel.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Repentance does have an effect on us

FIRST READING—The prophet Ezekiel lived among a people who were experiencing deep shifts in their spiritual and moral consciousness. Their Temple had been destroyed, along with most of their communal structures and ways of doing things. They were in bondage again, this time in Babylon. Up to the time of the Exile, responsibility and guilt were perceived as primarily communitarian: the nation was responsible as a whole for the sins of the people. Now, they begin to become aware of a new dimension: individuals too are responsible. Persons can repent and be forgiven. It is time for individuals to stop blaming their ancestors and to stop blaming God for their woes. If they change their evil ways, things will go better for them. The fatalism of corporate crime and corporate punishment does not prevent the individual from doing better.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

It’s never too late to come back

FIRST READING—Ezekiel wrote at a time when people were beginning to understand morality as an individual affair as well as a communal one. Previously, the nation as a whole was either with God or not; now prophets and people were developing a sense of personal morality. Just as the nation was in exile because of their collective betrayal of the covenant, so an individual could be responsible for his or her own fate by cultivating virtue or iniquity.

Robert Jensen in Ezekiel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) points out that life and death in this reading do not simply refer to a biological state of being. What makes life real are the relationships one has with God and others. The tragedy of death is the loss of those life-giving relationships. Thus, when the prophet says that the virtuous will live and the wicked will die, he’s talking about being alive to a relationship with God or cutting oneself off from it. When the people complain that God’s way is not fair, they are actually protesting the fact that they have to live with the results of their free choices.

Why would one turn from good to evil? It’s hard to imagine what would cause one to abandon good if they knew the joy of relationship with God. But, if doing good were more a matter of appearance than relationship, if one was simply seeking reward or comfort, then doing good might not pay enough dividends. The person who abandons virtue may have never been virtuous in the first place, but rather self-seeking in a way that appeared honorable. On the other hand, when people turn from folly and shallowness and seek the righteousness of a living relationship with God, they have opened themselves to everything that life has to offer.

The beauty of this teaching is that as long as we live, we are capable of growth, of receiving the life God desires to give us. The hidden promise of this teaching is that even if one’s commitment to good is so shallow as to be lost, that person still has a chance to come back.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Virtue and repentance

Today’s readings invite us to think about the unfathomable ways of God’s justice and mercy.  The First Reading takes up the topic of personal accountability, the consequences of sin, and God’s mercy to the repentant sinner.  The prophet Ezekiel asks the question: “If the sinner must live with the consequences of his sins, what is the purpose of repentance?”  The answer includes one of the most beautiful summaries of divine mercy in Scripture.  God gives the assurance that He is always ready to forgive the sinner who humbly repents, turns away from his sins, and restores his fellowship with God.  In His mercy, God even promises not to remember the transgressions which the sinner committed and repented (Ez 18:22).

Exploring the Text

God in his mercy is always ready to forgive

Our First Reading is from a passage in which the 6th century BC prophet Ezekiel takes up the question: “If the sinner must live with the consequences of his sins, what is the purpose of repentance?”  The answer includes one of the most beautiful summaries of divine mercy in Scripture in which  God promises His merciful forgiveness of one’s sins and restoration to fellowship with Him through the repentance of a humbled spirit (Ez 18:21-24).

To those Israelites who complained that God was not just in harshly judging the sins of a formerly virtuous person, God replies through His prophet that it is instead the sinful ways of the Israelites that are unfair (verse 25).  The punishment the Israelites suffered was because of their personal, unrepentant sins, and the people’s collective sins that led to God’s just condemnation (verse 26).  And yet, as Ezekiel assures the people in verse 27, God in His mercy is always ready to forgive the sinner who repents, turns away from his sins, and turns back to God (verse 28).  In His mercy, God even promised not to remember the transgressions which the sinner committed and repented.  Nor will God hold those repented transgressions against him: None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced (Ez 18:22).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance

God’s forgiveness is uniquely tied to personal repentance, contrition, and conversion (turning back to God) in the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance.  The Council of Trent quoted this passage from Ezekiel and related verses concerning the Sacrament of Penance:

  • “at all times the practice of penance, in order to obtain grace and attain righteousness, was necessary for all those who fell into mortal sin, even those who sought to be washed clean by the waters of baptism, so that, when sinfulness has been purged and set to rights, they would detest any offense against God through their hatred of sin and the sorrow of their souls.  Thus says the Prophet: Repent and turn from all your transgressions. Lest iniquity be your ruin (Ez 18:30)(Council of Trent, Session 14, 1).
  • “This Council declares that contrition encompasses not only the end of sin and the beginning of new life, but the reparation of the old, sinful life, as it was written: Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! (Ez 18:31)(Council of Trent, Session 14, 4).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Stephen Covey talks about the ways we respond to people and events... and that we can decide how to respond...He said that we as humans have responsibility - response-ability - an ability to respond.
SOURCE: Sunday Adelaja,  a Nigeria born leader, transformation strategist, pastor and innovator wrote an article  How to Transform a Nation Through Personal Responsibility in which he makes reference to many quotes on responsibility.
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"Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long." — Psalm 25:4-5

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 25

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm speaks beautifully of God’s compassion for the sinner who turns to him. The note of conversion—as the Psalmist sees his own sins in the light of God’s goodness—makes this psalm a suitable accompaniment to the change of heart mentioned in the first and third readings.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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God’s compassion for the humble

Sin separates us from God, even the sins of a person who has formerly lived a virtuous life. The Responsorial Psalm says God teaches His ways only to the humble. Those with humble hearts are opened to God’s corrections and are ready to seek His forgiveness. Everyone who sins has the promise of forgiveness through repenting those transgressions and humbly seeking God’s mercy.

Exploring the Text

Overview of the psalm

In this psalm attributed to David, the psalmist cries out to God, reminding Him of the just man who fears offending the Lord. In verses 4-5, the psalmist asks the Yahweh to instruct him in His ways, acknowledging that it is from God that salvation comes. He asks God, in His compassion for sinners, to demonstrate His love, kindness, and goodness by forgiving him for his sins (verses 6-7). He praises the Lord, who in His divine goodness, shows sinners “the way” (verse 8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
'The way'

In Scripture, “the way” is the path to salvation through obedience to the commandments of the Lord (Dt 30:15-16).  God shows the sinner the path to reconciliation and guides the humble hearted on the way to righteousness, dispensing His justice to both.  However, it is the humble sinner who acknowledges his wrongs to the Lord and receives God’s forgiveness.  Jesus Christ fulfills the psalmist’s petition for forgiveness and restoration.  He is the righteousness One who is for the humble sinner “the Way” to salvation; as Jesus said: I am the way and the truth and the life (Jn 14:6a).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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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. — Philippians 2:3-4

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Second Reading

Philippians 2:1-11

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Paul’s appeal to change destructive ways

While in prison, Paul hears from his visitors about the bickering and division amongst his beloved Philippians. From the deepest recesses of his heart, he appeals to them to change their destructive ways. Because they have been baptized into Christ, they are called to live in fellowship characterized by love, humility, mutual respect, altruism and unity. Paul holds Jesus up for his readers as their model for this transformation process. Look at Jesus; even though he is God, he is willing to surrender his equality with God in order to become fully human. He is willing to forgo his innocence to take on the sins of humanity. Because of his willingness to change, God fills him with his glory. In placing before them the self-emptying of Christ, Paul is suggesting to the Philippians a radical de-centering of their lives—from self-absorption to self-giving.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

A model of Christian service

SECOND READING—Look at the great hymn of Philippians 2. It is offered as a model of Christian service. Jesus, although he could claim a special relationship with God which could set him apart, chose solidarity with all humankind without exception. He accepted the ups and downs of an ordinary life. He accepted the suffering that it entailed, although, like us, there were times when he wished to avoid it.

When it came to his death, he prayed for courage and made his last moments an act of loving surrender. Fidelity in all things made him a model for us.

All creation now honours him as Christ the Lord.

Interestingly enough the early church did not think that such a picture would make us feel inadequate, rather they hoped that the simplicity and ordinariness of Jesus’ life would inspire us to imitate it.

St. Paul reminds us of the love we owe one another. We need to be supportive of each other in discipleship sharing a common spirit that encourages us and sustains us.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Christ humbled himself to become one of us

SECOND READING—Although we frequently use the terminology of family life when referringto the Church community, most of us do not readily experience Church as family. Even religious orders and congregations of men and women religious are most often so structured and operate with formal procedures that their members do not perceive their lives as familial in nature. The Church at Philippi was different. It met in the home of the wealthy woman, Lydia, a “dealer in purple goods,”who was not from Philippi but had a home there too. Paul exhorts the members of the ‘house-church’to practice the virtues of Christ himself in their relationships with one another, especially the virtue of humility. Jesus Christ had emptied himself of the divine glory that was rightly his in order to live humbly as one of us.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Total gift of self

SECOND READING—Paul exposes his heart as well as his spirituality in this selection from Philippians. His love for the community is palpable as he reminds them of the blessings they have in Christ and in his plea that they live in a Christ-like communion of love and service. The Philippians easily understood what Paul was saying in his long first sentence, but the vocabulary is not ours and is well worth investigating.

Paul opened his plea by appealing to the encouragement the community experienced in Christ. “Encouragement” translates as paraklesis, the same word we find in John for the Spirit-comforter. It refers to someone who stands in solidarity with, behind or for another. In this case, the solidarity the community knows is a characteristic of their being together in Christ.

The next phrase, “solace in love,” develops the idea of solidarity as remaining beside one another in agape love. That love, which is a grace in itself, binds the community together with Christ’s own love. Building on that, Paul talks about “participation in the Spirit” or koinonia (community). This conveys the sense of a human community bound by more than their own efforts or decisions. One secular sense of koinonia referred to an inheritance held by a group, not as individuals each with their own piece or parcel, but in joint ownership of the whole. Thus, what they have is a source and product of their being together.

Finally, Paul remembers the compassion and mercy they have experienced as members of the Christian community. Compassion is the translation of splanchna, a Greek term that refers to guts or the womb. It describes a shared feeling so deep that it has physical effects; they are viscerally moved by what happens to one another. Mercy describes an attitude that expresses itself in concrete response. Jesus expressed mercy by doing something for the person in need. Mercy can be understood as affection that springs into action. Having reminded the community of the richness of their Christian experience, Paul calls them to behave as a people who enjoy God’s grace in community.

Christians of the 21st century may hear Paul’s call to humility as a challenge, but it is hard to grasp how outlandish that sounded to first-century people. If we wanted to translate the cultural impact of his words, we would say “be servile.” Humility was considered the virtue of a slave, not a free person. To make the idea palatable if not attractive, Paul went on to describe the attitude he was calling for as the self-giving manner of Christ himself.

What follows in the hymn about Christ presents an absolutely iconoclastic image of God. Paul reminds the community that Christ always shared the divine nature; he was in the form of God. But, says Paul, that dignity wasn’t of the sort that it could be grasped or held onto. In fact, according to what Paul has learned from knowing Christ, being in the form of divinity necessarily implied that Christ would empty himself. Paul does not describe God as all-powerful, all-knowing, etc., but all-self-giving.

Christ’s compassion, his solidarity with humanity was such that he took on everything that was human so that humanity could see what we are invited to become.

The great revelation of Christ’s divinity is precisely his total gift of self. Although Paul didn’t have a developed theology of the Trinity, here we see the germ of understanding God as a community of persons totally given to one another.

The other side of that revelation is that in his humanity Christ revealed the truth about the divine destiny of creation. No one can reach God through grasping. But just as Christ emptied himself, so too the Christian community begins to experience union with God by living in a community of love such as Paul described in the opening verses of this reading. Like mercy which is affect in action, a person must  practice the attitude of Christ in order to begin to comprehend it.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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The humility of Christ

In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes that Christians should think about unity based on the Christian community’s threefold experience with the Holy Trinity: Christ’s gift of salvation, God the Father’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Paul’s appeal to Christian humility and obedience is rooted in what appears to be an ancient Christian hymn that focuses on Jesus’ humility and self-offering demonstrated in His obedience unto death for the sake of our salvation.

Exploring the Text

Paul's appeal for unity

St. Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi in Greece from his prison cell in Rome (Phil 1:12-14).  In our passage, he begins by urging Christian unity (verses 1-5).  The “one thing” we should think about (verse 2) is the unity based on the Christian community’s threefold experience with the Holy Trinity: Christ’s gift of salvation, God the Father’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance (verse 1).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Paul's appeal to humility

Paul’s appeal to Christian humility in verse 3 (and obedience later in verse 12) is rooted in what appears to be an ancient Christian hymn in verses 6-11.  The hymn focuses on Jesus’ humility and self-offering demonstrated in His obedience unto death (verse 8).  The short hymn, which rhymes in the original Greek, is divided into two parts:

  • Verses 6-8, where the subject of every verb is “Christ.”
  • Verses 9-11, where the subject of every verb is “God.”
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Paul's allusion to the story of Adam

6 Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

This verse is either a reference to Jesus’ preexistence and the aspects of His divinity that He was willing to give up to complete God’s divine plan in human form or to what the man Jesus, in His humanity, refused to grasp in His divinity.  Many Biblical scholars, both ancient and modern, see an allusion to the story of Adam in the Book of Genesis.  Unlike Adam, Jesus, the “second Adam,” though in the form of God (made in God’s image = Gen 1:26-27), did not reach out for equality with God, in contrast with the first Adam, who was tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit so that your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods (Gen 3:5-6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' obedience

7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Instead of coming in His divine glory, Jesus divested Himself of His divinity to come humbly as a fully human man. Jesus’ willingness to give up His life on the altar of the Cross manifested His obedience to the will of God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The word Kyrios/Lord

9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse 11 reveals the “name” in verse 9 as “Lord” (Kyrios).  It is a name that reveals His divine nature.  In Greek translations of the Old Testament, the word Kyrios/Lord was a substitute for God’s Divine Name, YHWH (Yahweh).  Verses 10-11 are reminiscent of what God told Isaiah: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear (Isaiah 45:23b).  Philippians 2:10-11 is the reason we genuflect before the image of Christ and before His presence in the Tabernacle.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Three levels of the cosmos

In Paul’s allusion to the Isaiah passage in verse 10, there is a reference to the three levels of the cosmos according to ancient thought: heaven, earth, and under the earth.  Paul’s point in verses 10-11 is that God the Son has sovereign authority over all creation.  “Under the earth” refers to Sheol (Hades in Greek), the abode of the dead to which the righteous and the wicked went after their individual judgments under the old covenants.  In Sheol, the righteous attended the Banquet of the Just while waiting for the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah.  However, sinners were punished for their sins and purified by the fiery love of God in preparation for the arrival of the Redeemer-Messiah.  After the disciples laid Jesus in the tomb, fulfilling His mission as the promised Redeemer, He descended to the dead, preached the Gospel of salvation, and then liberated them from the prison of the grave (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; Apostles’ Creed; CCC 632-35).  Sheol continues as a place of purification that we call Purgatory (1 Cor 3:13-15; CCC 1030-32) and will only cease to exist at the end of time at the Last Judgment (CCC 1038-41) when further purification is no longer necessary (Rev 20:13-15).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The hymns final doxology

11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This verse is the final doxology, which declares that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  It is an early Christian acclamation that may have been called out by the congregation during the liturgy of worship in proclaiming the divinity of God the Son.  Paul uses the same acclamation in Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:3.  The doxology concludes in giving praise and glory to God the Father who exalted God the Son and raised Him to glory.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Only hours after being elected pope, he insisted on returning to where he was staying to 'pay his bill'. The next day, Francis shows he's still a man of the people as he hops on board minibus.
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"Go out and work in the vineyard today."— Matthew 21:28

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 21:28-32

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The responses of two sons

GOSPEL—Today’s Gospel is the first of three consecutive parables in Matthew on the theme of judgment and how each person is responsible for his/her choices.

Today’s judgment parable is about two sons’ response to a command by their father to go out and work in his vineyard.

The first son initially says ‘no’ to his father but afterwards complies. The second son, on the other hand,says ‘yes, sir’ at first, but then ignores his father’s command. The first son represents sinners (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.) who initially said ‘no’ to God, but are now saying ‘yes’ to Jesus. The second son personifies Jesus’ audience, the religious leaders of the Jewish people and recipients of God’s revelation. They and their ancestors at one time said ‘yes’ to God, but are now saying ‘no’ to him by their rejection of Jesus. The first group, in cooperation with the grace of God, is able to turn around and open their hearts to Jesus. The latter group refuses to have a change of mind and heart, and is therefore shut out of the Kingdom.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Who did the father’s will?

GOSPEL—Matthew has Jesus offering a case study for us to reflect on. Once a vineyard owner told his two sons about the work required of them. To the elder he said, “Go into my vineyard today.” The elder son said, “I’m on my way.” He never went to the vineyard. The father said the same thing to his younger son. “Go to the vineyard today.” The second son said, “No, I won’t.” Later he felt ashamed of his actions and went off to work. Matthew poses the question, “Who did the father’s will?”

The answer is easy but the real question is why tell this story?

The vineyard was a common symbol in scripture for God’s place. In the Gospels it usually signifies the reign or kingdom of God.

The sons stand as types of servant sons of God. The story is about kinship with God and with one another. It operates on several levels. When Jesus told the story the brothers were members of God’s chosen people. They were confident of their privileged place in the scheme of things. In Jesus time some had used this position to make aliens even of their own people.

When Matthew used this story in the community he was addressing the attitudes that had been observed. Some disciples were considering themselves as superior to others perhaps because of a presumed piety or by virtue of the length of their commitment. Today we look at our own attitudes, especially towards those we feel are not as committed as ourselves.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

Jesus promises that repentance makes a difference

GOSPEL—Once more, I find it helpful to take a look of the different audiences to whom this parable was addressed: 1. Those for whom Jesus meant it. 2. Those for whom Matthew meant it. 3. Those in the Church today for whom it is meant.

1. Those addressed by Jesus: (a) The chief priests and elders of the people had not responded to the preaching of John the Baptist. They were paying little attention to the preaching of Jesus. The call to repentance and personal conversion that these two prophets uttered went unheeded by those who should have been taking the lead in the religious community. One would expect that messengers from God would be heard by those who stood in leadership among God’s people. Not so! (b) Tax collectors, prostitutes, public sinners of all kinds were hearing the message and responding in faith and repentance. Those who had said “Yes” to God bytheir public acceptance of leadership were not responding to Jesus. Those who had previously said “No” to God by the sinfulness of their lives were now coming to faith and repenting.

2. Those addressed by Matthew: Now, 50 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus, a new community is being addressed. (a) There is the larger Jewish community out there; not just those who have come to believe in Jesus. For the most part Judaism has not responded to the message of Jesus. They say they are God’schosen people,yetthey fail to follow the teachings of the One whom God has sent, Jesus the Anointed One, the Messiah. (b) On the other hand, the Gentiles who had not up to now been God’s special people were now coming to God in Jesus Christ. They were hearing the voice of Christ in the preaching of the Church and were coming to fellowship with those in Judaism who had committed themselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For Matthew, the Yes-sayers were the Jews who said they were already God’s people but failed to listen to Jesus’ teaching. The No-sayers were the Gentiles who had not previously come to God but were doing so now as they accepted the Gospel.

3. Among us today, we know that we have said “Yes” to God in our commitment to Jesus Christ, but atthe same time, we often fail to live up to that “Yes.” There are those who have said a firm “Yes” early on in life, but then, they have gradually slipped into an effective “No” as the attraction to sin has entangled them in its webs. Also, there are still those sinners who repent and make a commitment to God and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Saying vs. doing the right thing

GOSPEL—As we follow Matthew’s Gospel, the Lectionary skips over Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and moves us directly into his final teachings. We are now in the final section of the Gospel, so we can imagine the teachings we will be hearing from now until the end of the year as taking place during Holy Week.

Jesus tells today’s parable immediately after a debate with the chief priests and elders. When they challenged his authority, Jesus asked them to make a public statement about their opinion of John the Baptist. When they refused to be trapped into telling the truth, Jesus refused to answer their questions about himself. He told this parable instead.

Jesus addressed the parable to the very folks who had avoided his question about John. This time they got caught in his trap; they listened to the parable and ended up with no decent escape from his final question. A parable of a man with two sons started them off in familiar territory — that plotline had begun with Adam and went through Abraham and Isaac and on through their own experience. It could have even resonated with the comparison of John and Jesus. But, Jesus took the idea and developed it in his own style, making the turning point the punch that would expose the real situation of his audience.

If we interpret the parable in its cultural context it is more complex than it appears at first glance.

Culturally, the first son was a rude rebel. In a society where saving face was highly valued, the son who said “I will not,” wounded his father’s dignity and shattered his family’s reputation. He effectively put himself outside the family circle. In contrast, the second son honored the father, even to the point of addressing him as “lord.” Any observer would have seen that son as exceeding the ideal of filial respect.

Then comes the twist. The deferential son had only a veneer of respect for his father. He might keep things pleasant in the house, but the family business would fall apart under his do-nothing lifestyle. The insolent son actually demonstrated more family commitment than his hypocritical brother. Far from perfect, he was the one who repented. (The word translated as “changed his mind” is translated as repent in other passages and comes from the same root as metanoia.)

With this parable, Jesus pointed out the distinction between what might be called orthodoxy and orthopraxis, between saying the right thing and doing the right thing. His implication was that saying the right thing, following the rubrics, can become nothing more than a façade, leaving a people who look good but accomplish nothing for God. In contrast, doing the right thing will lead to understanding what is right and being able to say it as well.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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The parable of the two sons

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus confronts the religious leaders who oppose Him and His ministry in the Parable of the Two Sons. Sometimes it is human pride that prevents repentance, as in the case of the chief priests and elders to whom Jesus addressed His parable. Their failure to humble themselves prevented them from serving God’s divine plan in acknowledging Jesus’ Messiahship and His invitation to eternal salvation. We should all heed the same warning. In the obedience of faith, we must humbly submit ourselves to Jesus Christ and His Gospel of salvation as taught to us by Mother Church. We must not allow pride to harden our hearts so that we fail to come to repentance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or close our ears to understanding the message of the Living Word, like the proud and hard-hearted chief priests and elders. It is a humble and contrite spirit that pleases the Lord and provides a sure path to follow on the journey to eternal salvation

Exploring the Text

Failure of Israel's leaders

The chief priests and elders stood in opposition to Jesus’ mission to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and the gift of eternal salvation.  They were the leaders of the covenant people.   The chief priests were members of the ordained priesthood who were the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses, and the first High Priest of Israel.  The elders were the civil leaders who were part of the ruling hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church and represented the people in the Sanhedrin, the High Court of the covenant people (Ex 24:1-2, 9-11; Num 11:16-17).

Jesus told the religious and civil authorities they failed to recognize St. John the Baptist as a righteous prophet of God by his works (verse 32) just as they have refused to acknowledge Him and His God-ordained mission. Jesus used a parable to demonstrate the spiritual consequences of their failure and to teach them the meaning of obedience in serving the will of God as communicated by God’s divinely appointed agents.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Symbolism of the parable

In His parable, Jesus employed one of the four reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets: the vineyard (see the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets).  As a metaphor for Israel, the Old Testament prophets used the vineyard or fig tree to represent four stages of Israel’s relationship with God: covenant union with God, Israel in rebellion against God, Israel under divine judgment intended to bring about repentance and restoration, and Israel fully restored to God.  However, the Old Testament prophets never acknowledged a full restoration for the covenant people; it was only promised in the future.  Full restoration only comes through God’s supreme prophet, Jesus Christ.

THE SYMBOLIC IMAGE OF THE VINEYARD OR FIG TREE
Image Group Part I
Covenant relationship
Part II
Rebellion
Part III
Redemptive Judgment
Part IV
Restoration
Fulfilled
The Vineyard
or
Fig tree
Well-tended vineyard/fruitful fig tree Vines grow wild/failure to produce fruit Weeds overgrow vineyard/ ruin and destruction Vines are replanted/
fruitfulness restored
[examples in Scripture] Isaiah 5:1-4; Ezekiel 19:10-11; Jeremiah 24:4-7 Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 2:14; Micah 7:1-4; Joel 7, 11-12 Isaiah 5:3-6;
Ezekiel 15:6-8; 19:12-14;
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
Nahum 3:12-15
John 15:1-8
Jesus said: “I am the true vine… I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit …”

Jesus also used the “vineyard” imagery previously in the parable in Matthew 20:1-16.

The vineyard and the people in Jesus’ parable have a symbolic significance:

  1. The vineyard is Israel/Judea: the Old Covenant Church.
  2. God is the father.
  3. The first son who refused and then later served the father in the vineyard represents the tax collectors and sinners.  They are the religious outcasts who at first failed to serve God by keeping His commandments, but then answered St. John’s call to repentance.  They have come to Jesus to embrace His Gospel message of salvation and to serve God the Son.
  4. The second son, who said “yes” but then did not serve, represents the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees.  They are the failed shepherds of Israel and who serve themselves but do not serve God’s divine plan (c.f., Ez 34; Mt 23).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The father's will

31 Which of the two did his father’s will?  They answered, “The first.”

In their answer, the people’s leaders have condemned themselves, and Jesus pronounces His judgment upon them, saying: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

These men, in their pride and hardness of heart, presumed their superiority over sinners who they dismissed as unworthy of salvation.  In their lack of humility, they believed they had no further need to hear God’s Word to be obedient to the will of God.  They have fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning those who refuse to listen to God’s holy prophets: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, least they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them (Is 6:9-10 LXX).  St. Matthew quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 as a fulfillment statement in Matthew 13:14-15 concerning the very same men who are leaders of the Old Covenant Church but who have rejected Jesus’ authority to heal and teach the Gospel of salvation.  They should have realized that Jesus was fulfilling Yahweh’s promise in Ezekiel chapter 34 that He would come against the failed shepherds of Israel and shepherd His sheep Himself (Ez 34:10-11).  Jesus is the Good Shepherd; God in the flesh come to rescue His people (Jn 10).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Application for us today

We should all heed the same warning.  We must be open to the call of Jesus’ Gospel of salvation.  We must not allow pride to harden our hearts so that we fail to submit ourselves to humble repentance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Nor should we close our ears to understanding the message of the Living Word, Jesus Christ, like the proud chief priests and elders.  It is a humble and contrite spirit that pleases the Lord and provides a sure path to follow on the journey to salvation: Offer praise as your sacrifice to God; fulfill your vows to the Most High.  Then call on me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor me (Ps 50:14-15).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Parable of the two sons. 2012. Canvas, oil. 70 x 100. Artist A.N. Mironov (born 20 April 1975) is a Russian artist. He is known mainly as a portrait painter, though he also works a lot in the genre of religious painting. His paintings are found in private collections, in the Kashira local museum, in the Monastery of Our Lady of Kazan and in the St. Nicholas Church in Yamskaya Sloboda (Ryazan). (777 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0))

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 21:28-32

TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

28. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

29. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the Publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the Publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

JEROME. Thus much prefaced, the Lord brings forward a parable, to convict them of their irreligion, and shew them that the kingdom of God should be transferred to the Gentiles.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Those who are to be judged in this cause, He applies to as judges, that condemning themselves they might be shewn to be unworthy to be acquitted by any other. It is high confidence of the justness of a cause, that will entrust it to the decision of an adversary. But He veils the allusion to them in a parable, that they might not perceive that they were passing sentence upon themselves; A certain man had two sons. Who is he but God, who created all men, who being by nature Lord of all, yet would rather be loved as a father, than feared as a Lord. The elder son was the Gentile people, the younger the Jews, since from the time of Noah there had been Gentiles. And he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. To day, i. e. during this age. He spoke with him, not face to face as man, but to his heart as God, instilling understanding through the senses. To work in the vineyard is to do righteousness; for to cultivate the whole thereof, I know not that any one man is sufficient.

JEROME. He speaks to the Gentile people first, through their knowledge of the law of nature; Go and work in my vineyard; i. e. What you would not have done to you, that do not you to others. (Tobit 4:16.) He answers haughtily, I will not.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For the Gentiles from the beginning leaving God and his righteousness, and going over to idols and sins, seem to make answer in their thoughts, We will not do the righteousness of God.

JEROME. But when, at the coming of the Saviour, the Gentile people, having done penitence, laboured in God’s vineyard, and atoned by their labour for the obstinacy of their refusal, this is what is said, But afterward he repented, and went. The second son is the Jewish people who made answer to Moses, All that the Lord hath said unto us we will do. (Exod. 24:3.)

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But afterwards turning their backs, they lied unto God, according to that in the Psalms, The sons of the strangers have lied unto me. (Ps. 18:44.) This is what is said, But he went not. The Lord accordingly asks which of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. See how they have first sentence upon themselves, saying, that the elder son, that is, the Gentile people, did the will of his father. For it is better not to promise righteousness before God, and to do it, than to promise, and to fail.

ORIGEN. Whence we may gather, that in this parable the Lord spoke to such as promise little or nothing, but in their works shine forth; and against those who promise great things but do none of these things that they have promised.

JEROME. It should be known that in the correct copies it is read not The last, but The first, that they might be condemned by their own sentence. But should we prefer to read, as some have it, The last, the explanation is obvious, to say that the Jews understood the truth, but dissembled, and would not say what they thought; just as though they knew that the baptism of John was from heaven, they would not say so.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The Lord abundantly confirms their decision, whence it follows, Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots shall go before you in the kingdom of God; as much as to say, Not only the Gentiles are before you, but even the publicans and the harlots.

RABANUS. Yet the kingdom of God may be understood of the Gentiles, or of the present Church, in which the Gentiles go before the Jews, because they were more ready to believe.

ORIGEN. Notwithstanding, the Jews are not shut out that they should never enter into the kingdom of God; but, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered in, then all Israel shall be saved. (Rom. 11:25.)

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. I suppose that the publicans here are to represent all sinful men, and the harlots all sinful women; because avarice is found the most prevailing vice among men, and fornication among women. For a woman’s life is passed in idleness and seclusion, which are great temptations to that sin, while a man, constantly occupied in various active duties, falls readily into the snare of covetousness, and not so commonly into fornication, as the anxieties of manly cares preclude thoughts of pleasure, which engage rather the young and idle. Then follows the reason of what He had said, For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not.

RABANUS. John came preaching the way of righteousness, because he pointed to Christ, who is the fulfilling of the Law.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or, because his venerable conversation smote the hearts of sinners, as it follows, But the Publicans and harlots believed on him. Mark how the good life of the preacher gives its force to his preaching, so as to subdue unsubdued hearts. And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him; as much as to say, They have done that which is more by believing on Him, ye have not even repented, which is less. But in this exposition which we have set forth according to the mind of many interpreters, there seems to me something inconsistent. For if by the two sons are to be understood the Jews and Gentiles, as soon as the Priests had answered that it was the first son that did his father’s will, then Christ should have concluded His parable with these words, Verily I say unto you, that the Gentiles shall go into the kingdom of God before you. But He says, The Publicans and harlots, a class rather of Jews than of Gentiles. Unless this is to be taken as was said above; So much rather the Gentile people please God than you, that even the Publicans and harlots are more acceptable to Him than you.

JEROME. Whence others think that the parable does not relate to Gentiles and Jews, but simply to the righteous and to sinners. These by their evil deeds had rejected God’s service, but after received from John the baptism of repentance; while the Pharisees who made a shew of righteousness, and boasted that they did the law of God, despising John’s baptism, did not follow his precepts.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. This He brings in because the Priests had asked not in order to learn, but to tempt Him. But of the common folk many had believed; and for that reason He brings forward the parable of the two sons, shewing them therein that the common sort, who from the first professed secular lives, were better than the Priests who from the first professed the service of God, inasmuch as the people at length turned repentant to God, but the Priests impenitent, never left off to sin against God. And the elder son represents the people; because the people is not for the sake of the Priests, but the Priests are for the sake of the people.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

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