Our modern western culture is increasingly private. Look at the way houses are built. Gone are the days when the front porch was a greeting and gathering place for passers-by. If there was a garage, it was in the back of the house. These days it is more likely to see a driveway leading to a tuck-under or an attached garage out in front. No large porch, perhaps no sidewalk for passers-by.
The ancient Middle-Eastern culture was very public. Honor and dishonor were critical concerns. Think of the fourth commandment: Honor your father and your mother. Not just obey or heed. Honor.
In his address to the chief priests and elders of the people, Jesus asked, “Which of the two (sons) did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first,” and correctly so, for he actually went to the vineyard even though he said he would not. Had Jesus asked which one was the better son, they likely would have said it was the second son, for the first son publicly dishonored his father with words of refusal.
Here, Jesus was not concerned with cultural norms about honor. He asked the people which son did the father’s will. It was the first son, who repented of his initial refusal and did the father’s will.
The chief priests and elders couldn’t have missed the point. Tax collectors and prostitutes, who had initially said “no” to God, later said “yes” to John the Baptist’s call to repentance. They followed John, who led them to Jesus. They are entering the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders. For Jesus, it’s not all about words and appearances. It’s about what we actually do.
Thank you to all who contributed to the success of our recent adult education offering, Children of God, Children of Abraham: Catholics Encountering Islam. The greatest success was not the large number in attendance or the high quality of the presentation, but the clear affirmation that we are a community which values learning and understanding. This helps build peace. Praise God.
Thank you for your continued response to the recent stewardship mailing. Your participation in prayer, ministry and sacrifice, as best you can, is needed to sustain our parish.