The Parable of the Two Sons

The way of righteousness is dynamic and requires change. We walk, Augustine says, through our affections and our morals (De doctrina chris. I). And we walk in the direction to which the Word of God calls us. Christians cannot be fixated along this way, for the journey’s goal is the new Jerusalem itself and away from this land of exile.

Relevant Links

Matthew 21:28-32 Obeying the Father’s Will
Sunday Thoughts: The Parable of the Two Sons

Jerome and Fulgentius of Ruspe: On The Parable of the Two Sons

Guide for Reading

The parable of the two sons is straightforward and easy to understand. But one can also get more out of it if understood within context. Refrain from using the Sambuhay missalette for the day but go directly to Matthew 21:28-32 and make a sentence flow out of it.

  1. Identify the parts of the narrative in Matthew 21:28-32
  2. Who are Jesus’ interlocutors in this sectiion of Matthew’s gospel? Where do you get your answer?
  3. Why is the verb for “change the mind”/”repent” important to the whole narrative?
  4. How does Jesus apply the parable to the situation of his interlocutors?
  5. How does this narrative continue the previous discussion on Jesus’ authority?
  6. What is the relevance of John the Baptist in the narrative?

Construct your own sentence flow of the text or use the following

28Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work
in the vineyard today.’
29He said in reply,
‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards

changed his mind
and went.

30The man came to the other son
and gave the same order.
He said in reply,
‘Yes, sir,
but did not go.
31Which of the two did his father’s will?”

They answered

“The first.”

Jesus said to them,

“Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God
before you.
32When John came to you
in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later
change your minds
and believe him.

Comparing the Readings

There is no direct link between the first reading and the Gospel except the reference to “turning around” in Ezekiel 18:25-28. “Turn around” — shub, a 180 degree change in directiion — is ambivalent here. It can go both ways when a sinner repents or when a just man becomes wicked. The possibility that even the just can become wicked can become surprising to some, but it did become a reality during the exile when devotees of Yahweh became assimilated to the lifestyle of a foreign land. They turned away from Yahweh when they decided to be “at home” in their place of exile.

In the gospel reading from Matthew 21:28-32, the chief priests and elders were made to face the fact they did not believe in the preaching of John the Baptist inspite of the changes it effected in the lives of tax collectors and prostitutes. While the Baptist’s call for repentance (Matthew 3:1) was for all, the guardians of Israel’s righteousness thought that his call was not for them. They were “at home” in their understanding of God’s ways and therefore failed to hear Him in the Baptist’s proclamation.

The capacity to repent requires humility and a lot of it. It is for this reason that Paul, in the second reading (Philippians 2:1-11), brings before the minds of the Philippians the example of Christ who went the way of humility in obeying the Father’s will.

Suggestions for A Lesson

1. There are two possibilities for the day’s liturgy: (a) a lesson for on-going conversion and (b) a lesson about obedience as doing and not saying.

2. Use the reflection guide for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time as pointers for both: ongoing conversion is covered in nn. 1-2, obedience in deed in n. 3


4 comments on “The Parable of the Two Sons

  1. […] Bible Workshop. Includes related links; guide for reading; comparison of the readings; suggested lessons. […]

  2. […] Bible Workshop. Includes related links; guide for reading; comparison of the readings; suggested lessons. […]

  3. […] Bible Workshop. Includes related links; guide for reading; comparison of the readings; suggested lessons. […]

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