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Bulletin: October 1, 2023

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Background on the Gospel Reading


The context for today’s Gospel is the mounting tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple. Jesus has caught the attention of the religious authorities; the chief priests and elders question Jesus about the source of his authority. Jesus refuses to name for these religious leaders the source of his authority. Instead, he questions the priests and elders through the parable we hear in today’s Gospel. The answer given by the religious leaders is correct, but it convicts them for their failure to heed the call of John the Baptist and for their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God.


The situation Jesus poses is rather straightforward. Given the same task by their father, one son asserts his disobedience in words, but then obeys in his actions; the second son obeys with his words, but disobeys in his actions. The question that Jesus poses is pointed and direct: Which son did what the father wanted? All would agree that “actions speak louder than words” and that even if his words were disobedient, the son who did the work as ordered did the father’s will.


Jesus’ conclusion is also direct. The chief priests and elders, the ones who speak most often about God, did not act accordingly. They did not respond to the message of repentance announced by John the Baptist with a change of heart. Instead, John’s message was heeded by those one would not expect to repent—tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Because of their actions, these sinners will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders.


Jesus could ask us the same question. Do our words indicate our obedience to God? If not our words, do our actions? God desires a full conversion of heart, that our actions (and our words as well) will give evidence of our love for God.


Courtesy of Loyla Press


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