Sunday, Oct. 1, is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28, Psalms 25:4-9, Philippians 2:1-11 or 2:1-5, Matthew 21:28-32.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says something he has said 100 times before. He wants the message to be unmistakable: He doesn’t just want us to talk about him or profess our faith in him. He wants us to act on our faith.
Today he says this by telling the Parable of the Two Sons. When asked to go work in the vineyard, one son refuses and one son agrees. But the one who refuses actually works and the one who agrees never does.
“Which of the two did his Father’s will?” he asks. “The first,” comes the answer. He doesn’t want us to say the right things or feel the right things. He wants us to do his will.
Think of how many times Jesus has made this same point — again and again — throughout the Gospels.
In the Sermon on the Mount, he says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
When he talks about building your house on rock instead of sand, this is what it means. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock,” he says (Matthew 7:24).
How do you tell who true Christians are? “By their fruits you will know them,” he says (Matthew 7:16).
When someone cries out that his mother is great because she bore him, he corrects them: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it,” he says (Luke 11:28).
The way to be like Mary is to do his will, he says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 18:21).
He will come when we least expect it: “Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing [his will]” (Luke 12:43).
In Mathew 25, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents, in which only those who use their talents and multiply them are rewarded. Those who don’t are damned. Then he shares his famous vision of the Last Judgment. It isn’t those who recognize him who are saved — it is those who have served him.
In fact, the saved will ask, “When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?” (Matthew 25:38-9).
He will answer, “Amen, I say to you: Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
So it’s safe to say that he really means it. Outward signs of holiness mean nothing to him. He cares if we actually do the things he is asking us to do.
“Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” he says in today’s Gospel, because they accept the Father’s will.
Is that unfair? “Hear, O Israel,” answers the first reading. “Is it my way that is unfair, or, rather, are not your ways unfair?”
He is urgent, insistent and pleading: He doesn’t want us to just show up at church and call on his name. He wants us to do his will — to live the faith well — and he will give us the grace to do it.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima