The Third Son (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
We have often heard this dictum: “Action speaks louder than words.” This seems to be the lesson of our gospel parable. The first son declared that he would not go to the vineyard as his father had ordered him but realizing that he had to, off he went. The second son affirmed that he would go and work in the vineyard, but never went. The response of the first son was commendable because he, in fact, followed the will of his father. He was an action person!
Jesus explained that the first son symbolizes the tax collectors and harlots who have sinned and initially said ‘No’ to God because of their sinfulness but have repented; Jesus considers them on the road to God‘s kingdom. The second son represents the Jewish religious leaders who claim to be the original recipients of God‘s revelation but have refused to accept the preaching of John the Baptist and, consequently, the person of Jesus. With this explanation, it is quite obvious that the first son is the better icon to follow. But there is a third son that hovers in the gospel which merits reflection.
The third son is no one else but Jesus himself. He said ―Yes‖ to his Father and followed His will. When he agonized at the Mount of Olives, he verbally committed to fulfilling the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. He lived up to His words when He embraced His cross and died on Calvary. What does it mean to follow the sonship of Jesus? It means to always say ‘Yes’ to God and to live out our ‘Yes’ by doing God‘s will. At times, this may not be easy because like the first son, we reactively say ‘No’ to what He wants us to do in our lives, especially when we find the task very difficult. When we realize that we have to do God‘s will, we eventually act on it. Wouldn‘t it have been better if we said ‘Yes’ at the start? There are also times we are like the second son. It is sad when we say ‘Yes’ but never do anything. Some of us have a tendency to tell God that we are all out to follow Him. Just when we said ‘Yes’ and we discover that it will be hard for us to act on His word, we fold up and do nothing, sometimes, rationalizing that God will understand. Isn‘t this cowardice on our part and a lack of faith?
One of the catechists in my previous diocese is a concrete witness to the sonship of Jesus. Her name is Cecilia. She is 39 years old and has seven children. Her husband is a farmer. She lives in a far flung town in Nueva Ecija where illegal logging persists. Typhoon makes the life of the people in her town more difficult. Cecilia and her husband till a small piece of land at their backyard where they get some of their needs. Early in the morning, they would harvest vegetables from their garden and sell them in the market. Their children also help in the selling before they go to school. They rely greatly on God‘s providence for the needs of their poor family. In spite of all these, Cecilia felt God‘s call to proclaim the Good News by becoming a catechist. Aware of the urgent need for catechists in her parish and moved by the great desire to echo God‘s Word among school children, she responded to God‘s will amidst the struggle to balance service to her family and to the Church. She became the Head Catechist of the parish. To coordinate catechetical work, she gathers the six catechists under her care in her small house where they hold meetings. She even gladly shares the produce of her garden so they can eat together when they meet. Many times, going to the parish church and the schools is a problem for Cecilia because she has no money for bus fare, but this is not a hindrance for her to do God‘s work. Even though it is a sacrifice, she would walk for hours to go to the public schools in order to conduct catechism lessons for the school children.
Cecilia is a testimony to another dictum: “Action and words speak the loudest!”
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