MATTHEW 21, 28-32
31 … Which of the two did the father’s will?’ … Jesus said … ‘In truth I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you [the chief priests and the elders of the people]. …
HONOURABLE SON AND OBEDIENT SON
In the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ time honour is a core value. Life is often lived out very publicly. The conversations of the landowner and his two sons can be presumed made within listening ears of other villagers.
The first son disrespects and insults his father by saying no. The father would be shamed by the gossip and ridicule of fellow villagers.
The second son honours his father in public by saying yes to his request. His words are culturally correct. That he does not do what his father wants seems secondary.
WORDS OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND DEEDS OF SINNERS
The above kingdom parable of Jesus is aimed at the religious leaders who question Jesus’ authority to speak and act as he did in the Temple. The story contrasts their response to the message proclaimed by John the Baptist to that of the public sinners.
“The chief priests and the elders of the people” are like the second son in honouring God with their words. They did not believe in the prophet of God even after witnessing the conversion of the public sinners.
The tax collectors and prostitutes are like the first son. They repented after hearing John’s preaching and turned back to God.
SOCIETY WHERE YES MIGHT RESULT IN NO, AND VICE VERSA
In analyzing passages where judgments are passed, Jerome Neyrey characterizes the worldview of Matthew’s “world as a place of profound deception, lying, hypocrisy, secrecy, and ambiguity.” Words and deeds do not necessarily match. Externals do not reveal interior realities.
Constituting “part of a common and expected social strategy,” Neyrey concludes that “Matthew’s world is a cosmos where all characters both deceive others and expect in term to be deceived.”
Bruce J Malina and Richard L Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Fortress Press 2003.
Jerome H Neyrey, Deception, Ambiguity, and Revelation: Matthew’s Judgmental Scenes in Social-Science Perspective. Brill 2004.
John J Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A. The Liturgical Press 1995.
In catechesing adults, adolescents, and children
themes derived from the gospel passage could be developed.
Key themes include:
Believe in Jesus Christ
Ministry of repentance
Hearing and doing God’s Word
Mat 21, 28-32 > CCC 546
I believe in Jesus Christ
Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God
In his life time Jesus invites people to enter his kingdom and its feast through his teaching. A characteristic feature of his teaching is in the form of parables. To respond the hearer is to make a radical choice. To enter the kingdom the disciple has to renounce oneself. Words are not enough. Deeds are required.
Mat 21, 32 > 535
The mysteries of Jesus’ public life — his baptism
Jesus begins his public ministry — in solidarity with all humans — with a baptism by John in the Jordan. John the Baptist preaches a baptism of repentance. Crowds of sinners — including tax collectors and prostitutes — come to be baptized by John.
In Matthew 7, 21-23 Jesus warns us that the person who will enter the kingdom of Heaven is not the one who says to him “Lord, Lord” … but the one who “does the will of his Father in heaven.”
What do I need to change to be
not only a “hearer of the Word”
but also a “doer of the Word?”