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The parable of the two sons

Gospel Reading: Mt 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people,] What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. 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.”

The ‘Yes’ proven in action
People receive God’s will in different ways. In the end, however, the responses boil down to just one: either obey God’s will or reject it. We see this in the parable of the two Sons. One obeys the wishes of the father; the other does not. What makes their contrasting responses dramatic is that both actually go against their own will. The first son goes against his will by changing it to that of the father’s will. The other son meanwhile at first agrees to the father’s will but later reneges on it. It is the first son, who ultimately aligns his will to the father’s, who is found pleasing to the father.

In giving this parable, Jesus relates it to the Pharisees, experts of the Law, who fail to carry out God’s will.

Jesus also means the parable for sinners. They recognize God’s mercy and forgiveness in the person of Jesus, and are more receptive to Jesus’ words and teachings. They initially disobeyed God because of their sinful lives, but salvation is theirs when they open their hearts and minds to the good news of salvation proclaimed by Jesus.

The First Reading stresses the greater responsibility on the part of people who are knowledgeable about God’s commands. When the righteous man sins, his sin is grave in the sense that he knowingly commits something evil before God. His culpability and responsibility are even aggravated because he is not an unknowing or unwitting sinner. On the other hand, God has a soft heart for sinners. A good deed by a sinner who converts is greatly rewarded. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel, “None of the crimes he has committed shall be remembered against him” (18:22).

The Gospel is both a word of hope and an admonition. Hope is given to sinners who change from their situation of sin to a life of obedience to God’s will. God does not cease to call to conversion those who stray from the path of righteousness. A highway is left open for them to pass. But the Gospel also admonishes those who are righteous to stay on the path of righteousness.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.