26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)
Sunday 1 October 2023
“‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him”.
“There’s a sea between saying and doing”. This ancient Italian saying well reflects the human condition. Even in the case of the two sons in this parable, what’s said and done doesn’t match up! However, the first son goes further than just words, unlike the second son, whose words remain at the level of good intentions. This is good for nothing though. This is why Jesus, while not praising the first son, agrees with His disciples that action has ore-eminence over just words.
There is no distinction between saying and doing for God. The Hebraic term davar means both ‘word’ and ‘thing/object’ Jesus Himself is the Word that became Flesh. Words serve to shine light on events/facts. Just like they serve to illuminate the signs and actions done by Jesus.
Between the words and actions of the first son there’s a process that occurs, a process described as repentance, or metamèlomai in Greek. Meta means ‘to go beyond’ and mèlomai means ‘that which is in my heart’. During the time-gap, the son goes beyond his feelings and individual plans. He overcomes these in order to give space to his father’s desires.
In our Christian life, having the ability to change our mind – to question and examine ourselves, to go beyond our own desires or plans – is a decisive and virtuous attitude.
Neither of the two brothers are perfect, but the first takes advantage of time and doesn’t waste it. Knowing that his father is merciful he doesn’t allow himself to be paralysed by remorse or regret for what he said, and he moves forward.
Francis of Assisi once said “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words”. Actions are decisive and the most important act is obedience to the Word of God. Jesus also made Himself obedient, even unto death, death on the cross. This is the only way that gives us life, joy and peace.