MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on obedience, sons, duty, honor, love, listening. Do these all go together? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Matthew 21:28-32. For Audio, “read more” below. #GreatChristianPreaching #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #BenedictineRule #Listening #Holiness #ObedienceIsNotWhatYouThink
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/28/2014 The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 21:28-32.
Monks in the Benedictine Tradition say that a good monk is “obedient”. What does that mean, “obedience?” To some, it means that we are to do as we are told. To others, it means that we are supposed to wait until we have asked what should be done. I can humorously picture a monk running through an Abbey to the Abbot about every little detail.
“The root of obedience is the Latin word which means “to hear.” In fact, the first word in the Rule of St. Benedict is “Listen,” as in “listen to the ear of your heart.” To live a Christian life, it is important to be obedient to God. Yet, what does this “obedience” look like?
Obedience is important to the understanding of this passage from the Gospel of Matthew. The parable that is painted of the two sons, one who says he will, but doesn’t and the one who says he won’t, but does. Just for popularity, Jesus points to the people who are supposed to be the leaders of the “chosen people”, and says, “you are the ones who say yes, but don’t follow through.” It is the equivalent of, “here! Let me stick my finger in your eye.”
Clearly, the second son was listening but not obedient. The first son, it seemed like he was not listening, but then an amazing thing happened. His heart became involved. The words of the Father, after a time of disobedience, began to sink into his heart. The first son reminds me of the passage from the 2nd Chapter of Ephesians:
And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these, we all once lived…
The first son, was like this passage in that he was cut to the heart and realized that he was actively disobedient to his father. He was disrespectful to his father by saying no to his face. He was rude, arrogant and unappreciative of the help that his father needed. This is not to mention the disrespect of all that the father provided him. How would his dad feel about this? What kind of frustration must it have left the father in to think his son would just leave him hanging high and dry in the father’s day of need? What was the motive? Love, guilt, duty? What?
The second son, he gives lip service to get the honor and the status, but then rejects his father and lives out the disrespect that the first son just could not upon thinking about it. The second son, he is the one who is selfish, self-serving, self-centered and the greater disappointment.
There are several observations that need to be made here. Both of the sons are, well, sons. They are beloved of a father, a Father in Heaven, who created them and gives them life. God loves us all. I have said to you over and over again to remember that passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5, which says, “[the Father] makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” We are not dealing with favorites. There are no favorites for God: he loves us all.
They are children who have been called upon by their Father to give help in the vineyard of life, to go and spread the word of the love of God. The job of spreading the word of God to all was given to the Chosen People and Jesus is saying that their leadership is not getting it done at that time. It is a lesson for our time. The Father in Heaven needs the word, his Word, spread more than ever. We need people to answer the calling to get out and go. The work in the vineyard is needed and you just might be asked by the Father to go and work it.
The point should be made that the second son was disobedient, but so was the first. There are none who complete the word of God. None of us are perfect. None of us have been good all our lives. We all sin. Just like we should take note that God does not play favorites, we should do well to remind ourselves that all of us have failed God. Yet, what this also means is that, just like the first son, who blew it with his mouth, there is always a chance to repent. We CAN turn it around. We CAN read our Bibles for once. We CAN pray a little prayer everyday. We CAN invite our friend to church we have neglected for so long. There is never a time when we CANNOT start working in the vineyard for Jesus.
The question is, how do we get to the vineyard, and the answer is in the Benedictine concept of “obedience.” Hear what the Benedictine Rule says,
Listen, carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. (RSB, Prologue:1)
It means that if the Father tells you that the intent is to bring more people into the Church, then you are to do the loving thing, the kind thing that exhibits hospitality and welcoming others like that person is Christ. It does NOT mean that you would make people feel like they are outsiders and ostracized, lacking the love of God. Let me be clear, I am not advocating everything goes, by no means! I am advocating that we treat everyone with the same love with which God loves them. Does God send sunshine or rain on some, but not others? No, of course, not.
Our approach is not to make everyone keep every jot and tittle of the law like we cannot do. It is to invite them to think of what the Father is asking of us, let it sink into our hearts and then invite them to turn from the way they were living and moving to a life that is in love with the Father. It is an invitation to a life that respects the Father and his requests. It is an invitation to a life of love of the other. It is a life that desires to love perfectly. All of these things are at the heart of what love is about. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, he answered that upon one commandment hung all the law AND the prophets: to love God, and the second was like it, to love your neighbor.
To be obedient to God is to ask in every situation, what is the loving thing? What is the thing that shows the greatest concern and care for the person standing right in front of me? Sometimes that means giving a little more mercy than is called for. Sometimes it means standing sadly and lovingly firm. Whatever it is, it is to love.
The point of this parable is that we are to serve God out of love, not out of a sense of weaseling out of what we don’t want to do for the Father who loves us so. The point of the parable is that we don’t want to be like THAT GUY. Are you? Are you “THAT GUY?”
In the coming week I challenge all of us to think of two things. First, wake up every day and realize that God loves us like he loves everyone. There is no one who is more valuable than us. We are no more valuable than anyone else. Second, what is it that God is asking you to do this day that you have been neglecting to do? Do it. He loves you, start to do it now. Amen? Amen.
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