Twenty-six Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion?" (Mt. 21:28-32)
Today's gospel poses a question: Which son did the right thing? Of course, we all know the answer – the one who did the work in the vineyard. St. Anthony of Padua answered us in the most quoted sermon I know. I am confident that you quoted him when you said to a compatriot, "Actions speak louder than words," he continued, "Let your words teach, and your actions speak."
Which son are you? Recall that when you hear or see a pronoun in the Scripture, insert your name and answer the question. There is a hint of the appropriate way to respond in St. Paul's word to the Corinthians: ". . . rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross because God greatly exalted him. . ." (Philippians 2:7-9).
And Jesus, true to form, gave a bit more than the correct answer: "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When 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" (Matthew 21:31-32). Obedience, service to the other, and submission to the will of God are the price of admission to the kingdom. You know which son did the right thing, so the gospel repeats the question: Which son are you?
This is a great way to take the pilgrimage into Nation Black Catholic History Month, knowing that every month and every day is a day to "turn away from sin and believe in the gospel." We have the entire month of October to get ready for the pilgrimage. Look at the lives of the six from our neighborhood who are up for canonization. And, while you're at it, talk to someone you know who did one of two things. Find someone in your circle who walked with Dr. King on August 28, 1963, or was catechized in one of Sister Thea Bowman's classes. The question for them: How did you turn on the pilgrimage and the conversation with a living saint? The answer is incomplete until "the Word becomes flesh" in you. Knowing which son or daughter we want to be, think about today as the first day of Lent, and make the turn now! Obedience, service, and submission to His will – that's what the favored one did. So, the question stands for us: Which son or daughter are you? Answer as if your life depended on your response. Why? Because it does. And don't worry. All the work will not be done in the vineyard by the time you get the answer.
Author: Deacon Timothy Tilghman, the Deacon in the Neighborhood, St. Teresa of Avila Church, Washington, DC.