LOVE SHOWN IN OBEDIENCE

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            We heard in the gospel the story of two sons who say something and do another. The father in the parable went to his first son and said, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” And the first son said, “No, I will not.”

            You can imagine some of the things he might have said: “No! I can’t. I have other plans for today.” “I have something more important to do.” Imagine how the father must have felt upon hearing it. He must have felt sick in the pit of his stomach.

            I want you to imagine it from the point of view of God – the God who invites us to work in his vineyard, the God who calls us to work for his Kingdom, the God who wants us to work with him in building a better world. This is the God who has done so much for us, who has given us blessings too numerous to count. He is telling each of us: “Child, go out and work in the vineyard today.”

            Now, what do we say to this God, explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously? Ano ba talaga ang sinasabi natin sa tuwing tumatanggi tayo na gumawa o magtrabaho sa ubasan ng Panginoon, at ano ang implikasyon nito sa relasyon natin sa kanya? The bottom line of what we say when we refuse to work for God is this: “I’ve got better things to do with my time than work for you or work for the building up of your Kingdom.” “I’ve got better things to do with my money than share it to the poor who are just too lazy to work.” “I’ve got more profitable ventures to invest my resources on than on the missions and ministries of the Church.” “I can use my talents and abilities and be compensated better than put them in the service of the community for free.” “Who are you to demand anything from me? I owe you nothing?” Of course, we can say that we are not that rude to say those things. But, again, that is the bottom of our refusal “to go out and work in the vineyard today.” Think of how the Father feels.

            How wonderful then it must have been for the father when he went to his other son and told him to go out into the vineyard and do the work that needed to be done. He must have felt elated upon hearing the response of his other son: “Yes, Father, I will go.” But we know what happens: He did not go.

            The two sons in today’s gospel parable are not the type that will bring much happiness and joy to their father. Though, of course, the one who in the end obeyed was certainly better than the other. However, it must be emphasized that both the initial defiance of the first son and the instant willingness without follow through of the second son are deficient. Both show weakness, a lack of love, and imprecision of purpose.

            What is given to us as an example to follow is neither the first son  nor the second son, but the Only Son of God, Jesus Christ. Combine the quick “Yes” of the second son with the ultimate commitment of the first, and we see a snapshot of Jesus. Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will is what we must imitate. The expression of love is always moral and is revealed in obedience. For Jesus, real love is shown only in true obedience.

            St. Paul, in today’s second reading, describes Jesus’ obedience this way: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped.” “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…” “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

            J.D. Crichton, in his book Celebrating the Word, gives this beautiful reflection on Jesus’ self-emptying on the cross: “That is the power of obedience, an obedience transfused and sustained by love.” According to Crichton, this obedience of Jesus is the source of our obedience to God. Jesus’ “loving obedience is the source of our ability also to obey even when it is very difficult.”

            So great was his love for us that Jesus held back nothing in saving us from sin and in giving us the fullness of life. We only have to be open to him to receive the precious gift of his love. In the Eucharist, in the Body and Blood of Christ, we have the guarantee of all that we seek and desire.

            Let us end with a prayer…God, our Father, help us understand Your will, Make us humbly realize that the only way to bring peace to our heart, joy to our mind, and beauty to our life is to do Your will. May we never forget that our highest fulfillment, our greatest happiness, and our widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with Your will. Father, Your will be done. Amen.     

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