Readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32
Do you find today’s parable of the two sons good news? I suspect it was as much good news to the Apostles as it was a challenge.
I’ll pass over Peter–he’s every preacher’s whipping boy so I don’t need to recall his impetuosity and inconsistency. Instead, think of the brothers James and John, who wanted to call down fire from heaven and to sit at Jesus’ right and left. Their nick-name, Sons of Thunder, sounds to me like a red-neck biker club. I wonder whether Jesus kept them around to keep them off the streets and give him some comic relief.
Then there’s plain spoken Nathaniel who said of Jesus, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” With his sense of irony, he could have been a monk.
John’s Gospel tells us that Judas was a thief, and everyone tells us that Matthew was a tax collector. There’s Thomas, who says in John’s Gospel, “Let us go to die with him”, but somehow manages not to; this is the same Apostle who puts his finger into the wound of the risen Lord.
Let’s nor forget Simon the Zealot. Scholars disagree on what exactly a Zealot was, but you probably wouldn’t introduce one to your mother. Conversely, my mother would probably be curious to meet one, which would not be a recommendation to polite society.
Jesus is definitely in bad company so if people have doubts about you, you’ve come to the right place today. We belong here; Jesus to have a feel for us who are not the best behaved.
Why is that? Apart from comic relief–and I do believe Jesus enjoyed that–perhaps we have nothing to lose. Does that make us more teachable? More responsive? Have our defenses been stripped away? Or that human tendency to defend ourselves…is that just not believable anymore? Have most of our pretensions been seen through?
Like children, are we still capable of surprise, wonder, adventure? Are we perhaps not petrified in routines? Have we, perhaps, not frozen God into a concept? Can we then risk an adventure, even the adventure of seeing ourselves for what we are?
What is the point of today’s Gospel? Is it no more than a checklist telling us what to avoid? Or, like the Apostles, are being given the chance to acknowledge what we really are now so we can grow beyond that?