Ezekiel responds to a prevalent theology among the Babylonian exiles—that God was punishing them for the sins of others (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). Speaking through the prophet, God announces, “Only the one who sins shall die” (v. 20). and more remarkably, if the wicked one turns away from sin and lives justly according to God’s laws, that one will not be punished (v. 21). But if a just persons turns to wickedness, that one will die. The people react, claiming that the Lord is unfair, upsetting their theological perspective and making them individually responsible for their own salvation. The second reading opens with Paul’s litany of Christian attitudes: encouragement in Christ, solace in love, participation in the spirit, compassion and mercy. If the Philippians possess these, then being of one mind and heart, they will complete Paul’s joy. But lest they become haughty (as happened among the Corinthian believers), Paul warns against selfishness and vain-glory. Humility is the watchdog of vanity. As an example of the appropriate attitude, Paul quotes an early Christian hymn, which describes Jesus’ ultimate humility.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is in the temple area defending himself against the chief priests and scribes who question his authority. In a parable unique to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus introduces two sons who say one thing and do another. When asked by their father to work in the vineyard,
the first son replies, “I will not,” but later relents and goes to the field. The second son responds oppositely. Jesus asks his interrogators, which son did the father’s will? They answer that the first did. In its original context, a parable is not ordinarily explained. The readers are left to puzzle out the answer for themselves. When an explanation is given, it is likely from the hand of the evangelist shaping his sources for a particular end. Matthew’s community may have recently been ousted from worshiping in the synagogue, so he has Jesus explain the parable, establishing the tax collectors and prostitutes as the worthy son, while the religious leaders are
the disobedient one.
THOUGHTS FOR ACTION
Lord Jesus, you poured out your life on the cross as an offering to God and an example of humility for us to follow. Give us the grace to follow that example in word and deed through our love of others.
Excerpted and edited from LIVING THE WORD, for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
commentary by Laurie Brink, O.P., and Deacon Frederick © 2014 by J. S. Paluch Co., Inc. 09/28/14