The Parable of the Two Sons who were asked to work in the Vineyard

Fr Frank O’Dea SSS

Homily: 26th Sunday, 2014
Readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

This parable is Jesus’ answer to the chief priests and elders who questioned Jesus’ authority. The story concerns two sons who were asked to work in the vineyard.

The first refused to go but when his conscience troubled him he changed his mind and went to the vineyard in obedience to his father.

The second said he would go but didn’t. He was deceitful and hypocritical.

Jesus directed this parable to the chief priests and elders.

He used the incident of John the Baptist as a litmus test.

He pointed out that the chief priests and elders refused to believe in John who challenged them to repent.

But they did not repent.

However, the tax collectors and prostitutes believed John and repented.

These sinners did the will of the heavenly Father.

Like the first son, they were not doing right but relented when challenged.

Jesus compares the chief priests and elders to the second son who pretended to do what was right, but was deceitful.

He told them the tax collectors and the prostitutes would get into the kingdom of God ahead of them.

This was a very serious claim for Jesus to make against the rulers of the nation.

Jesus showed his authority by daring to challenge these leaders who were not used to being challenged.

The first reading has the same message in a stronger way.

It says, ‘When the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life.’

This corresponds to the first son.

The reading also says ‘When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it.’

This corresponds to the second son.

In the second reading, Paul says ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.’

We are to think like Jesus and behave as Jesus did.

Jesus rebuked the leaders of the nation for their hypocrisy, so there are times when we should rebuke our leaders when they do wrong.

There are many ways to do this. We can write to members of parliament or we can take part in demonstrations.

A modern phenomenon is that there are now groups such as Getup and Avaaz. These are not for profit groups who are not aligned to any political party but are concerned citizens.

If you are on their email contacts list they send you emails to ask you to sign a petition, to protest against a government action or take part in a demonstration.

They have been involved in such matters as this year’s budget, the treatment of asylum seekers, the preservation of the environment and climate change.

The need for action on climate change is one that concerns me especially, as it does for thousands of others.

Last Sunday there was a world-wide protest about the lack of action on climate change.

675,000 people took part in demonstrations in New York, London, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne and many other cities around the world.

Let us hope these protests will convince politicians to do all that is needed.

It’s no use having a prosperous country when our children and grandchildren won’t have a planet to live on.

Last Sunday at a meeting in New York the leaders of nations from all over the world met at the UN headquarters to discuss climate change.

There were only about three countries whose leaders did not attend. Australia was one of those countries. Our prime minister was more interested in making war than in climate change.

Challenging authorities becomes more difficult when church authorities are the focus.

The sex abuse matter is a prime example.

Bishops who covered up the abuse have been challenged through the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry and the Royal Commission.

But challenging church authorities is risky.

School teachers who complained to the Catholic Education Department or the Archdiocese about priests taking children out of the class room were sacked and couldn’t get a reference for another teaching job.

I met one of them at the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry.

Jesus took the risk of rebuking the chief priests and elders, and they got their revenge by crucifying him.

To be active in this way we need to have fire in the belly.

We get this fire through the Eucharist.

St Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation, said the Eucharist is fire.

By receiving the blessed bread and wine, we are receiving the sacramental presence of the risen Jesus.

The regular participation in the Eucharist helps us to put on the mind of Jesus.

When we put on the mind of Jesus we become like him and have the courage to challenge secular and religious authorities when they are failing.