26th Sunday of Ordinary time A
September 21, 2020 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: This 26th Sunday we arrive at a point in Matthew’s Gospel
where the conflict between Jesus and the authorities is heating up.
Just prior to today’s reading, Jesus in chapter 21 had entered Jerusalem
in triumph. He had cleansed the temple and worked miracles of healing.
The chief priests and elders of the people question his authority: “by
what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this
authority?” Jesus confounds them by a question about John the Baptist.
Matthew follows this controversy by three parables of judgement on those
who do not accept Jesus as the Herald of the Kingdom.
l) In these three parables we pick up the mounting hostility
between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.
2) But we also detect the strained relationship between Matthew’s
community (around the year 90) and Judaism.
3) We ask ourselves the question: what do these parables mean for
26th a) The two sons. (REFUSAL BEGINS WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST)
1) The “sinners” (prostitutes and tax collectors had been living a
“no” to God) at first REFUSED to do God’s will, they ignored the Law and
the teachings of the rabbis. Later, however, they repented through the
preaching of John and Jesus, opening their hearts to God’s design.
The righteous, on the other hand, said “yes” to God by meticulously
following the Law. In fact, however, they did not do what God really
wanted. They refused to heed the message of John the Baptist or Jesus.
This parable repeats the demand for repentance verified by action
that is the hallmark of Matthew’s Jesus. “None of those who cry out,
‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who DOES
THE WILL of my Father in heaven.”7:21
The conversion of the tax collectors and sinners to the way of
holiness should inspire Jesus’ opponents to accept his preaching, and
not to regard him with suspicion and hostility.
2) Matthew summons the Jewish leaders of his day to be like the
first son and to join the heirs of tax collectors and harlots–the
3) This parable makes us look at ourselves. Am I more like the
first son or the second son.
This parable summons us who are Christians and heirs of Matthew,
not merely to respond with promises of labor in the vineyard, we must
follow our words with action.
If we said yes, but did “no” we are called to conversion.
Conversion is possible and called for. The son who at first said
no, undergoes conversion and goes. We should learn from the conversion
experience of others and ourselves be converted.
l) The parables of Jesus when originally uttered summoned his hearers to critical decision.
2) These same parables, when applied allegorically by Matthew to his church, are not to be read with complacency on the assumption that they deal with the rejection of Jewish leaders.
3) Today they summon Christians who are the heirs of Matthew, not merely to respond with promises of labor in the vineyard, but to bear fruit and to “put on Christ” by deeds of justice and charity.
Andrew Greeley tells this story: Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there were two sisters who were the neighborhood baby-sitters. One evening the new couple on the block hired the younger sister to baby sit for their children. When they returned home, the house was a mess, the sitter was half asleep on the couch, and it looked like the children had not followed their routine of washing up and brushing their teeth. The next morning, the children were so excited. They told their parents how the sitter had played with them and told them wonderful stories and run races with them and helped them say their prayers before they went to sleep. Still, the parents decided they would not use a sitter who left such a mess again. The next time they went out they hired the older sister. When they returned home this time, the house was neat and orderly, the children asleep, the baby-sitter at the table studying. She reported that the children had been angels and there were no problems. They were very pleased with her and gave her an extra tip. The next morning the children complained that the sitter had yelled at them using swear words, made them play outside after dark while she talked to her boyfriend on the phone, made them go to bed early, and then went outside and smoked and talked with some friends. Which of the two sitters would you want to use?