27th November, 2020

 

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today

We have just heard another parable about the vineyard, which contains a message and a deep lesson for each of us. This time the heroes of Jesus’ story are two brothers who responded completely differently to their father’s request: “my boy you go and work in the vineyard”. Although we don’t know their names and ages, we can say quite a lot about them.

The first one seems to be a disobedient and very cold man because he rejected his father’s request from the very beginning. “I will not go,” – that was his simple and very short answer. But – as we heard – after a moment of thought he changed his mind and finally he did what he was asked to do. Probably at some point he realized that the vineyard will one day become his own and that actually he was going there to work for his own benefit and profit. Perhaps he realized that in fact he is going there to prepare for himself a happy and secure future.

The second son is certainly a man who can make a good impression on others, perhaps he can even charm others with his declarations. From the very beginning, he seemed to be a very obedient and loyal son, because – as we heard – he answered his father’s request without the slightest hesitation: “Certainly, sir.” Unfortunately, his actions did not confirm his beautiful declaration at all, and finally he turned out to be someone unreliable.

At the end of this parable, Jesus asks his listeners a simple question: Which of them did his father’s will? Probably none of us would have a problem answering this question. But I think Jesus wants each of us, considering the attitudes of these two sons, to ask ourselves a slightly different question: which of these two brothers is more like me?

Maybe sometimes we are more like the first son. Perhaps in our daily relationship with God we do something similar to what he did. Maybe we sometimes rebel against God and His commandments because we consider them useless or even harmful in our life. Perhaps sometimes we don’t realize that whenever we make an effort to go and work in our father’s vineyard, then we actually work for our own future and happiness. Maybe in our first reaction we rebel against his requirements expressed in the gospel and ten commandments, considering them a burden or something unnecessary in our life. Maybe sometimes we are cold and indifferent to God, but after a moment of reflection we come back to him because we realize that only he can give us real good and happiness.

Looking at the attitude of the second brother, we can ask ourselves: Is my relationship with God limited only to beautiful words, declarations, and promises? Do I remember and keep so many promises that I made to God or to others on my wedding day, my child’s baptism, or as a priest on my ordination day? Do I try to overcome my laziness and pessimism?

At the end of this gospel, Jesus spoke very strong and provocatively words that – most likely – have hurt many of his listeners. We can only try to imagine how offended we would feel if someone told us something similar: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you”. But I am convinced that by saying this particular sentence, Jesus did not intend to offend or humiliate anyone, but he wants to encourage us not to let our faith be only something external, something we show or declare only in words, as the chief priests and the elders of the people used to do. He wants our faith to be something alive and reliable. Jesus wants our faith to be expressed through our concrete decisions, actions and conversion, as has happened in the lives of many sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.

I think if there was a third son in this parable, he would be perfect. I think he would immediately reply to his father, “Certainly sir” and he would certainly do what he promised. But, as we heard in this parable, there is no third son who is perfect. Jesus did not talk about someone like that. Why? Because there are no perfect people in the world who do not make any mistakes. Each of us has moments of hesitation, doubts, or simply laziness, but today Jesus wants to tell us something very optimistic: It doesn’t matter what your life has been up to now, what you have been doing and what your profession has been. It doesn’t matter how many sins you have committed and how much you have offended God in your life. Today God is giving you time to change your life once again and he invites you once again: My boy, my girl, go and work in the vineyard. Go and work for me and for my kingdom, which is your future and eternal happiness, and which one day will be your reward and heritage.