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©2013  St. John Evangelist, Horsham
Deacon Tom Murray
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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.

- Fr Kieran
Background on the Gospel Reading - Today