“We Proclaim Faithfulness”
September 27, 2020
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
In this portion of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples and He has just driven away the moneychangers and the vendors at the temple. The next day, He was asked by the religious leaders from what authority was He doing it and where it is coming from. Jesus answered their question by asking about John’s baptism on whether it is from heaven or from men. The Pharisees answered and they said they didn’t know. Jesus replied, “Then neither will I answer your question.”
Let us ask ourselves, “With the messages that you hear every day, do you think they are from heaven or from men?” If the message we hear is from heaven, the natural question to ask is, “Why do we not listen?” Why do we not hear, heed, obey or act on it? Ponder on this.
The question of the Pharisees prompted Jesus to tell a parable that Jesus tells them to illustrate what the kingdom of God is like. He tells them to confront people and to remind them not to overly get use to the system of the world and be part of it because we, as children of God, belong to the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the world. We follow and we walk according to the principles of the Kingdom.
Jesus told about the parable of the two sons to the Pharisees. He was alluding to them when he talked about the second son. The first son who was asked to work in the vineyard said, “I will not,” but afterwards he repented and he obeyed his father’s will and worked in the vineyard. The second son immediately said, “Certainly, I will,” and yet he did not make good his promise. Jesus likened the Pharisees to the second son who gave vows, and who showed a form of religion, engaged into pietism and religiosity but were empty and not substantiated by obedience.
God said, “I prefer obedience, not a form of religion. Christianity is not form, vows or words. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of power not of words. God is not like us that are fooled by sweet talk. We are sometimes all talk and no walk even if we cover it in whatever form we know. Jesus said, “These people honor Me with their lips but their heart is far away." The kingdom of God is not by religiosity, show, empty words; worse, being sanctimonious or being holier than God. The Pharisees looked down on people like the prostitutes, the sinners, and the tax collectors as people who would never make it to the kingdom of God. Jesus said that these people would get ahead of them for what will cause them delay to enter the kingdom of God is their unrepentant heart. The vineyard owner had two sons. Even the religious leaders are sons; even the hypocrites are sons. There is hope for them.
If we hear a message coming from heaven directing us to change our ways to the right path, then, heed the message and obey and follow because this is for our own good. Just because somebody is loud, angry, bangs the table and is intimidating when they are saying something, it doesn't mean that they are sincere. This doesn’t mean that they will do what they promise. We should learn from campaigns promises before elections whose sincerity we must be aware.
For young girls, caveat that when a guy is emotional and expresses his feelings, it doesn't mean that he will do what he says. I know of someone who sings with emotions, "Lord, You more precious than silver, more beautiful than diamonds…and nothing I desire compares with You." Honestly, that is me, I speak for myself, and maybe for all of us when we do sing this song. Sometimes we promise God certain things and we don’t follow up. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of power not of words. It is a kingdom of walking, not talking. It is a kingdom of demonstration of God’s Divine nature and His good works. Let our light shine before men that they may see our good works. It is not to hear our good words or big promises, but see the good works in us that glorify God in heaven.
Does this mean that we are not to make vows on certain occasions like baptism, weddings, ordination, confession, when we worship? We give our vows which are legal and binding. Our words will be used to judge us. Obedience is not for the sake of an egomaniacal god but for ours. God gives us commandments to obey not to please Him but for our sake. A theologian said that the glory of God is man living in fullness by demonstrating His nature. Fullness of life is by heeding the prescription of God by demonstrating His Divine nature. Be productive; be fruitful; be full of good works. Vows can be good as they give us an objective and it behooves us to act according to the manner worthy of God’s will.
Sometimes the problem is we make the vows through our words to appease a person. We do this even to God because we don't understand His heart. He is not after the, “I'm boss, you obey.” God is not mocked. He is after the good that obedience does for us. God is love and His love wills the good of another always. Working in His kingdom results in fullness of life for us.
When the father said, “Go work today in the vineyard,” he means today for today is the day of salvation, of blessing, and of fullness of life. Do not delay it. Work today for our sake. The reason God wants us to work for Him because He wants us to share the joy of His bountiful harvest. We need God as we need His blessings in our life. Working in the vineyard is a gift of grace; a response. Response results in fullness of grace; grace upon grace; blessing upon blessing until we live out the fullness of life that Jesus died to give to us.
Our response should not be because of pressure to perform or to please an exacting tyrant of a God or to please someone. It is for us to walk according to the likeness of God so that we can taste and see His goodness. Work today in the vineyard because the harvest is plentiful and God wants us to partake of and enjoy His harvest. God is gracious. He is self-sufficient. He doesn’t need our help, but He wants us to work so that His joy may be in us and our joy may be full. His will is to bless and bless us. Jesus did not say, “This is My commandment, that you love one another so that My ego is satisfied, but rather, “that your joy may be full.”
This goes for everything that we do – in our giving, in our serving, in our volunteering, and in our doing good works. May we understand that the good works are not just for the needs, but for the demonstration of the Divine nature in us so that we are fulfilled and so that we give a good witness to others. They would want what we have; they would want what they see in us, which is the joy of the Lord, and they, too, would want to work in the vineyard.
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. The purpose of our creation is so we can be fruitful and walk in good works. This is what fulfills us. God wants us to be a blessing and discover the blessing of being a blessing.
Earthly fathers raise their children, train them, pay for their education, and work hard to provide education for their children. Would the fathers say to their children that after they graduate they give their five-year wages to them? No, they want their children to be educated because they want a good life or a good future for them. Jesus said, “If you be an evil father know how to love your children, how much more the heavenly Father would want what is best for them? It is always for the children’s sake, so that they can be a productive member of the society and the kingdom of God.
God works in the vineyard for our good. Our good is God’s joy. God’s joy is fullness of life and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.