28 September 2008 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 18, 25-28; Psalm 25; Phil 2, 1-11; Matthew 21, 28-32
The phrase, the ‘Lord’s way,’ repeats itself in the readings today. In the first reading, the people who were exiled in Babylon complained that the “Lord’s way” is unfair. They thought that their banishment from their land was the Lord’s punishment for their sins. Yahweh said that it is not His way that is unfair, but the people’s way: they have turned away from virtuousness to sinfulness.
We can take the first point from this. We do have an image of God as a God who punishes us for our wrongdoings. Scripture is filled with stories and images of a vengeful God. And many of these stories are in the Old Testament as what we have today. It is not surprising therefore that we believe that whatever negative consequences we experience are regarded as God’s vengeful response for what we have done. Kaya natatakot tayo sa Diyos. Parang isang taong laging naghahanap ng mali sa atin. Ngunit, pinapakita ng ganitong pagtingin sa Diyos na may kondisyon ang kanyang pagmamahal: kung mabait tayo, iniibig tayo ng Diyos, at kung tayo’y nagiging makasalanan, binabawi Niya ang Kanyang pagmamahal. But this is not God’s way. St. Paul said that God loves us, while we were sinners — while we are sinful, obnoxious, nakakainis, nakakabuwisit, nakaka-asar, atbp.
God desires that all people choose what is good, noble and just. To choose the opposite, that is, what is wrong, base, and unjust, is to move away from God. Sinasabi ng karanasan natin, na mapayapa ang ating kalooban kung malapit tayo sa Diyos at sa kapwa. Ngunit kung pinipili nating maging sakim o nakasakit tayo sa kapwa, nararamdaman natin ang pagkabagabag. Ginugulo tayo ng ating isip. Hindi tayo makatulog nang mahimbing. Parang nahiwalay tayo sa ating sarili. When we move away from God we naturally experience disorder and alienation.
The image of God as a punishing God is an unhealthy and wrong notion of God. Because it does not admit God’s love and therefore does not open up the transforming power of God. Simple lang, mas madali tayong magbago para sa nagmamahal sa atin; hindi tayo nagbabago sa kapwang laging galit sa atin — sa katunayan, mas nagiging rebelde tayo sa kanila, mas nagkakasala tayo sa kanila. Ayaw nating magbago sa kinatatakutan natin: kadalasan, umaarte na lang tayo para hindi sya magalit.
So Yahweh said to the Israelites that their exile is a consequence of our decisions, not His. Because God’s way leads to life. If we choose God, we choose to live what is right and just and thus preserve life. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians encourages the community to emulate Jesus’ humble obedience. He did not think about His status as God, but regarded us, His creatures, more important than Himself that He willfully died for us. If we continually think about other people’s welfare, we think about their lives — and eventually, they too will think about ours. This is the way of virtuousness. This is the way of God.
The second point. The Gospel tells us the parable of the two sons. The father wanted them to go out and work in the vineyard. The first one refused, but went anyways. The second one said ‘yes’, but did not go. Both of the sons are imperfect and not ideal. The ideal is this: we do what we say, we practice what we preach, but in all circumstances the more important is what we do. Kung ako ang pangalawa na napako ang pangako, mako-konsyensya at mababagabag ako.
So the better one is the first, who after refusing eventually changed his mind and went.
This gives us the consolation that indeed we can be like the first son. When we finally decide to do what is God’s way that is, what is right and just, we find ourselves at peace. And we allow ourselves to grow. If we stretch our imagination, the work of the first son on the vineyard will yield much fruit — including a deeper love for his Father.