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Select Exegesis
September, 22 2014

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

Ezek 18:25-28 Ps 25:4-9 Phil 2:1-11 Mt 21:28-32

Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.



            The parable that we have from Matthew’s Gospel is situated within a series of 
controversy stories that precede the Passion.  So, within this literature we will detect an abrasive streak to which Jesus responds with pointed questions about the faith that leads to righteousness and works toward reconciliation with God.   

            Our parable is the first of three parables in a sequence that contrast verbal rebellion followed by actual obedience, and verbal obedience that ends in failure to act according to the wishes of the father who is in the position of the lawgiver. (Mt 21:28-32; 21:33-46; 22:1-14)  The shift between the responses of the sons and their final performance is seen as a parallel to the response Jesus received to his preaching.  It might have been expected that the chief priests and the elders would have given acceptance to Jesus’ teaching, but instead the tax collectors and public sinners went into the kingdom before them. 

            This reversal in what would have been expected from the religious establishment could have called forth a question from them as to whether the way of the Lord was just.  That takes us back to our second reading when the Prophet Ezekiel told the house of Israel that it was not the Lord’s way that was unjust, but their way was unjust.  Therefore, the one who committed iniquity would be punished, and those who did what was lawful and right would be rewarded/live. (Ezek 18:25-28)  The text that follows our reading draws out that point.  Everyonewill be judged according to his or her ways.  Therefore, repentance for transgressions against God was called for, because the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of anyone.  The Lord calls all people to turn to him in righteousness and to live. (Ezek 18:30-32) 

            Paul’s knowledge of the message of the Hebrew Scriptures likely inspired him to move his thinking forward in time, and to call the Gentiles to turn to the Lord and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.  The kenotic hymn inserted in the Letter to the Philippians, calls them to put on the mind of Christ Jesus and to be in accord with the way trodden by the Master for which the Father highly exalted him. (Phil 2:1-11)  The hope for eternal glory was the hope Paul held out to the Gentile churches who would enter into the kingdom, to the consternation of some others.

            We notice that Paul’s instructions to his beloved community do not direct them to neglect responsibility for their own well-being.  Rather, he tells them to have concern also for the interests of other members of the community.  That follows the phraseology of the Second Great Commandment of the Law, and so becomes part of the basis of healthy community. (Phil 2:4; Lev 19:18)  All of this is to be bound together by a spirit of humility (Phil 2:3) that sets aside selfishness and conceit and puts in place a spirit of equal dignity of all the members of the church. 

            Our Psalm response expresses the idea beautifully.  “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble to what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Ps 25)

Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.


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