Imperfect Sons

October 1, 2023; Mt 21:28-32; 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus uses the parable in today’s Gospel to pose a question. A man directs his two sons to go out into the vineyard and work. The first refuses, but then goes to the vineyard. The second says, “Yes, Sir, I am on my way,” but does not go. The question that Jesus poses to us is, “Which of these two did the father’s will?” I think an honest reading of this parable would lead to the conclusion that neither son did the father’s will. The second son said he was going, but did not work. The first son worked, but insulted his father by refusing to accept his command. This son needs to learn respect. The other son needs to learn obedience. Neither of his two children was the child that did what the father wanted.

When we look at the parable from this perspective, it is a reminder to us that all of us are imperfect sons and daughters of God. That means that every one of us must be prepared to grow and change. A very good way of changing is emulating the gifts of others because God has not made us the same. We are different. Some people excel at gifts that we do not possess. It is by appreciating the difference between us that we can begin to grow in areas where we are weak.

Married couples will testify to this truth. In a marriage, the partners are never the same. They have different strengths and weaknesses. When the partners in the marriage forget their imperfection and their need to grow, the union of that marriage is threatened. It does no good to say, “Why doesn’t she think the way that I think?” “Why doesn’t he do things the way that I do them?” But when spouses appreciate their differences and embrace them, the marriage can become stronger. A spouse that excels at organization can learn from the spouse who is gifted with patience. A partner who has big dreams for the future can learn from the partner who has the gift of being practical.

This truth also applies to our society and the way our nation functions. There are some among us that extol the value of economic prosperity and are good at producing it. Yet, as good as they are, they may still need to grow, so that they can hear the cries of the poor and those whom our economic system has left behind. On the other side, those who correctly push for social justice may also have to grow, so that they appreciate the need for compromise and respect those who are able to build wealth for the good of all.

Today’s Gospel presents to us two sons who are imperfect and tells us that we are one of them. It is only when we own our imperfection and open ourselves to learn from the gifts of others that we can personally and communally do the will of our Father. 

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