A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 44)
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – September 25, 2005
“Belonging to the Kingdom”
Ez 18:25-28 // Phil 2:1-11 // Mt 21:28-32
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 21:28-32) is part of the narrative section concerning the approaching advent of the Kingdom of heaven (chap. 19-25). It immediately precedes the episode of Jesus’ encounter with priests and elders in the Jerusalem temple wherein the latter contested his authority (Mt 21:23-27). The point of contention was the authority by which Jesus had entered the city, cleansed the temple, healed the lame and the blind, and taught. Jesus overcame the controversy by retorting: “And I will ask you a question, only one: if you tell me the answer to it, I will then tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?” (Mt 21:26). Jesus’ counter-question reduced his detractors to an evasive reply: “We do not know” (Mt 21:27) for if they say “purely human” they would risk the anger of many people who regarded John as a prophet and if they say “from God” they admit their lack of spiritual insight in not taking up John’s cause. Against this backdrop of polemic and controversy, the evangelist Matthew presents three parables dealing with the same theme: the necessity of responding with a continual “yes” to the saving act of God. The three parables dealing with the culpability of Jesus’ opponents (Mt 21:28-32: “The Parable of the Two Sons”), the punishment allotted to the wicked tenants (Mt 21:33-43: “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants”), and the carrying out of that punishment (Mt 22:1-14: “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”) underline the great urgency and need to respond positively to the call of God to go and work in his vineyard, and thus belong to his heavenly kingdom.
The Jesuit biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington comments on the first controversy parable: “The parable of the two sons (v. 28-32) assumes that Jesus’ preaching of God’s kingdom is a pivotal moment in Israel’s religious history. Just as the second son initially refused the father’s command but later repented and obeyed (v. 30), so the tax collectors and prostitutes (v. 31) are now reforming their lives in response to Jesus and are entering the kingdom. Just as the first son promised to obey but did nothing (v. 29), so the professedly and publicly religious opponents of Jesus fail to act upon Jesus’ message of the kingdom. The opponents’ culpability consists in their refusal of Jesus’ preaching and stands in sharp contrast to the openness and resolve of those whom they despise. In verse 32 the parallel between John and Jesus continues. The dynamic of the parable of the two sons was present in John’s ministry also. The conversion of the tax collectors and sinners to the way of righteousness should inspire Jesus’ opponents to accept his preaching, and not to regard him with suspicion and hostility.”
In light of the Parable of the Two Sons, the French theologian Yves de Montcheuil asserts that the only sign of belonging to the kingdom is faithfulness to the will of God. He explicates: “This parable alludes in the first place to the Jews and the Gentiles; but it also applies to each one of us. We said yes when we recognized the legitimacy of God’s law and promised to submit to it; but very often we go on living as before without troubling ourselves about the will of God. We think we live in the kingdom because our yes was once sincere yet the force of daily habit eludes the will of God who is calling us to the kingdom … Entry into the kingdom requires of us a continuing and living desire to accept God’s will for us at each moment of our life. It is a yes said over and over again.”
by Jojie B. Balinton MSC
Member: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Lord Jesus obviously employs the gospel story of the Parable of the Two Sons to illustrate how the two sons responded to the Father’s invitation differently. This invitation speaks primarily of obedience – obedience to the will of God the Father. The first son who declined and yet changed his mind and went finally to his vineyard points to the tax collectors and prostitutes who are regarded s hopelessly excluded from the reign of God. The other son who positively replied and yet did not go to his vineyard represents the religious leaders who vehemently considered themselves as self-righteous. For them repentance is of no significance. The calling to repent principally pronounces guilt. By the authority coming from God, John was acting with God’s will in the way of righteousness. Yet only the faithful outcasts repented, while the faithless leaders undermine the message. Jesus is trying to depict that those little ones and marginalized epitomize the modern faithful, while those leaders are seen as culpable.
This passage has a resemblance with our personal lives. More often than not, we make decisions in trepidation because of lack of discernment and commitment. If not, we easily give up in exchange for personal attachments and worldly desires, which are temporal. Our faith is put to test. We act as if we can do everything all by ourselves. Thus we fail to recognize that we are nothing without God. As always, our conversion is not rooted in our hearts. We are hypocrites trying to portray good persons, but deep inside a thug. We should not forget that obedience to God is only evident in action – not confession. It is a total denouncement of sinning. It is ultimately saying that salvation is the same for all of us. God’s grace is marvelously bestowed on us; we have to grab it!
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. With regards to God’s invitation to work in his vineyard, can we compare ourselves to the first son who initially refused, but changed his mind and finally abided to the divine saving will? Or, can we compare ourselves to the second who initially responded positively, but sadly failed to respond at all?
B. Does the positive response of “tax collectors and prostitutes” who were pushing ahead into the vineyard of God’s kingdom inspire us to a spirit of repentance and conversion?
C. Are we convinced that entrance into the kingdom requires a living and continual will, a constant and present acceptance of God’s will for us, a continual renewal of our “yes” to God?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Cf. The Grail)
Leader: Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all, I give you my heart
that you may love in me your Father and all mankind.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me,
so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.
Assembly: Lord Jesus, help me to respond “yes” to the Father’s invitation
to go and work in his vineyard.
May my “yes” to the Father’s saving will
be constant and true.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (Mt 21:28-32)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray for those who have revoked the “yes” of their baptismal commitment to God through devious actions and perverted ways. Pray for those who are turning to God anew and seeking to renew the “yes” of their filial love for God. Renew your response of “yes” to God by your loving service to the poor and the marginalized in your community/society.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may understand and appreciate more deeply the necessity of responding with a continual and vital “yes” to the Good Employer who invites us to go and work in his vineyard and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 44): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323