Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
29 September 2002
Scriptual Reference: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

I Will

       "I will." This is a phrase that I must have uttered to my parents a thousand times.

       "Rob, will you clean your room?"
       "I will."
       "Rob, will you wash the dishes?"
       "I will."
       "Rob, will you mow the lawn?"
       "I will."

       Of course my parent's definition of 'I will' was different than mine. They understood it as being 'now', not sometime in the future, like I understood it.

       "Rob, will you mow the lawn?"
       "I will."
       "That's what you said last week. How about you say 'yes' and do it today?"

       "I will." That's what the second son says in today's Gospel. I wonder how many times his father had to ask him to work in the vineyard.

       "I won't." This is what the first son says, but later regrets it and goes out to work. There are people in our world today who do just that. These are the ones who care and fight for justice, who have concern for the poor, but when it comes to talk of God or religion they have no time for it. There are many people today who are trying to be "saints without God"; just like the first son, they say no to God, but strangely go about doing his will.

       This parable of the two sons had to be disturbing for Jesus' audience to hear. The Pharisees, to whom Jesus was speaking, were men of knowledge. They were regarded as holy men to whom the Jews looked upon for guidance. These were men who said to God, "I will." What Jesus was telling them is that "you say you will do God's will, but then you don't. Instead you seek and guide others in you own will". I don't imagine the Pharisees liked hearing this too much. And I suspect that they didn't like hearing Jesus say that the tax collectors and prostitutes will be entering the kingdom of heaven before them. For they had to wonder how sinners and those who lead immoral lives can be entering the kingdom of God. Yes, these were the very ones who said to God, "I won't." But the difference is that they repented and went to do the will of God. The Pharisees never did repent. That just said yes and went about their lives.

       This parable should also be disturbing for us to hear, because our spiritual lives can sometimes reflect the responses of these two sons-"I will" and "I won't". For there are times that we can be people of faith, but when it comes to put that faith into action we fall short. We believe in the love and mercy of God, but fail to share that same love and mercy that we have received with others. There are times when we act on the behalf of justice, but do it without God. That is, our actions are born more out of a self-righteous will than one that is righteous. It is not enough to merely believe, and it is not enough to just do. Faith is much greater than that.

       For what Jesus is calling us to today is to live a life of continual conversion. We are called to be people of faith and to live our faith. We are called to say, "I will" and then do it. And when we fail to do it, or when we say, "I won't", Jesus calls us to be repentive, to turn our lives back to him. We are called to a life of continued conversion. To become satisfied in our spiritual lives, thinking that we have done enough, that we have grown enough is to be like the Pharisees. Jesus calls us to a deeper relationship with him - one that is to increase in love and knowledge. He calls us to enter deeper into the mystery of his body and blood that we receive from this table. The truth is that Christ is always calling us to himself, "Will you go out and work in my vineyard, will you do the will of my Father?" This is the question that Jesus puts to each one of us today. Let us not merely respond "I will", but let us say "yes" and do it today. +

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