27 September 2014

MY BROTHER (THE BEST!)

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 21:28-32 (Ez 18:25-28 / Ps 25 / Phil 2:1-11)


I am an only son.  I am an unico hijo.  But I am not an only child.  I have three sisters but I have no brother.  I do not know which is better really.

Because I have no brother, I had no choice but to do all the boy’s chores in the house. Believe me, I had no problem with that really.  I was a very obedient son.

But don’t get me wrong.  I obeyed all my parents’ orders but it never crossed my mind that obedience was one of my virtues, for there were many instances when I obeyed only after much prodding from my elders.  There were also times when I did obey but not without grumbling.  I remember my mother telling me (and my sisters) that it would have been better had she herself done the task with much peace rather than I doing it with much mumbling.  The way I see it now, my mother was teaching us not only to obey but also, and most importantly, to obey with joy.

I confess that I grew up praying to have a brother.  I used to envy my friends who had brothers they could play with and share the pains of a boy growing into manhood.  But I could not understand why the same friends envied me instead because I had no brother to compete with, to argue with, and to fight with.  It seemed to them that before bullies were born, there were first brothers.  But whatever they said, I always wanted to have a brother.

Two brothers are in the parable today.  As to the quality of their relationship with each other, the Gospel is quiet.  But their personalities are vividly painted to us: the first is an insolent brat who brushes aside his father’s order but later repents and obeys him nonetheless while the second is a loudmouth who promises to obey his father but proceeds to do as he pleases instead.  Clearly, the point of the parable is not who among these two brothers obeyed first, but which of them obeyed nonetheless.

Surely, Jesus is not commending the first son’s initial refusal to obey, but, more certainly, He is also not praising the second son’s hypocrisy.  In fact the morale of the story speaks against the hypocrisy of those to whom the parable is directly addressed: the chief priests and the elders of the people whose perennial sin is self-righteousness.  The Gospel today begins with “Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people….”

The story in the Gospel today is entitled “The Parable of the Two Sons”.  It is among the shortest parables of Jesus.  It is brief because the point it wants to put across is very simple.  To the insolent: Be converted!  To the loudmouth: Be real!  Yes to sincerity; no to hypocrisy.

Of course, we don’t approve of sin; but, undoubtedly, a sinful occasion can be a blessed opportunity to repent and return to the Father.  Sin can also occasion grace – unexpected grace, tremendous grace, amazing grace!  The Church has a long list of saints who are given to us not only as proofs of this but also as inspirations to us: Simon Peter, Matthew, Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Camillus de Lellis, to name just a few.

The first reading today, taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, testifies to the ever present possibility of a sinful person becoming virtuous and so lives.  “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,” the Lord says through the Prophet Ezekiel, “it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.  But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins he has committed, he shall surely live.”

The ancient Easter hymn of the Church, the Exultet, celebrates how sin became an occasion of overwhelming grace.

O mira circa nos tuæ pietátis dignátio!
O inæstimábilis diléctio caritátis:
ut servum redímeres, Fílium tradidísti!
O certe necessárium Adæ peccátum,
quod Christi morte delétum est!
O felix culpa, quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem!

“Father,” the hymn’s translation in English goes, “how wonderful Thy care for us!  How boundless Thy merciful love!  To ransom a slave Thou gave away Thy Son.  O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”       This Redeemer, celebrated by the Exultet, is Jesus Christ, the obedient Son of the Father.  St. Paul, in the second reading today, taken from his letter to the Philippians, declares that this Jesus, emptying and humbling Himself, became obedient even unto death on a cross.  The same Jesus, the Apostle admonishes us, should be seen in us by our having the same attitude as His.  You and I must be like Jesus – selfless, humble, and obedient.

Which of the two brothers in the Gospel today are we?  Are we the first who said he will not obey but changed his mind and obeyed nonetheless?  Or are we the second who said he will obey but did not do his father’s will?  Let us be honest, we know that we alternate roles, don’t we?  Sometimes we are like that insolent brat who brushes aside his father’s will but later repents and obeys him, but sometimes we are also like that loudmouth who promises obedience but obeys not.  Oh, yes, we know and have actually been both these two brothers.  The world is not divided between these two brothers: it is a combination of both!  We experience ourselves that our individuality is a mixture of the qualities of the two brothers in the Gospel today.

For our conversion, may God be praised!  For our disobedience and hypocrisy, may God forgive us all.

There is, however, a third Son in the Gospel today!  In truth, it is “The Parable of the Three Sons!”  The presence of the third Son is not seen in the actual parable but vividly felt in the One who narrates the parable.  The third Son is Jesus Himself.

While the first son is better than the second, both sons nonetheless caused their father undeserved sorrow: the first because of his foul disposition while the second because of his hypocrisy.  In both sons there is no perfect harmony between words and behavior.  That harmony is found in Jesus.

In Jesus, words and actions are always perfectly in harmony.  He is the Son whose every word corresponds faithfully to His every action.  He Himself is the Truth because His words are truthful to His actions and His actions are truthful to His words.  In 2 Cor 1:19, the Apostle Paul writes, “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, was not Yes and No; but in Him it is always Yes.”  And in Mk 14:36, the entire life of Jesus is summarized by His greatest desire: “Father, not what I will, but what Thou willest.”  And still, in Jn 4:34, Jesus declares how important His ‘yes’ to the Father: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  Jesus is God’s “Yes-man”.

Jesus is our Brother.  Some of us may have no sisters, but not one of us can say he or she has no brother.  Jesus is always our Brother.  In fact, He is the best brother any one can ever wish for.

Memories of my childhood prayer remain fresh in my mind despite all these years.  I nagged God with my wish for even just one brother.  God did not grant my wish but He did hear my prayer.  In my final years in the seminary, I realized that God actually gave me a brother.  His name is Jesus.  And He is His Son.  Then my prayer changed from “Father God, please give me a brother” to “Father God, please make me become like Jesus, my Brother.”





3 Comments:

At 11:11 PM , Anonymous richard said...

fadz, i like your homily..your homily is very reflective...my request to you: beside you make your homily in english, could you make your homily in tagalog? i really need your homily in tagalog because now i am still learning tagalog..i hope you help me by your homilies

 
At 9:07 PM , Anonymous Rosvia B. Ropelos said...

Rosvia says...
Yes. God the Father, please let me always be like Jesus who followed you to die for us for our salvation.

 
At 11:39 PM , Blogger Fr. Bobby said...

shalom, richard!

sometimes, crumbs is in tagalog.

thank you for your kind compliments.

God bless you! +

 

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