by Fr. M. K. Kuriakose, Philadelphia, USA
Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:28-32
The above passage is the parable of the two sons. One son agreed to work in the father's vineyard but later he decided not to work. The other son initially was unwilling to work in the father's vineyard but later he repented and worked in the vineyard.
It is a very relevant parable for our present time. We have sufficient examples for these two types of sons. I would compare the son who agreed to work in the father's vineyard to those of us who are baptized into the Body of Christ that is the Church. In the Baptismal ceremony, the commitment was taken by the baptismal candidate or his/her Godparents to cast out demons and accept Jesus as his/her Lord and God. Declaring the faith in the Lord is the contract that we enter into to walk in the Lord's way. Thus we all agree to work in the vineyard of the Lord. But what happens as we all grow bigger and bigger? We forget that we have a commitment to the Lord. It is even more surprising that we take part in the holy Confession and holy Qurbana with additional commitment to be united with the Lord. However, there are very few people who would keep that promise to work in the Lord's vineyard.
Most of the parents are completely unaware of the commitment that they have taken for their children at the baptism. Both the parents and the Godparents are instructed strictly to bring up the child in Christian life style. But our experience is that once the child grows bigger, the emphasis on the child's upbringing is shifted to material world than in the spiritual world. Indeed the material world of education is essential and that helps us sustain in material life. But that is not all. Parents who don't understand this truth become negligent to the value of spiritual nourishment. Most of the parents concentrate on how the child can thrive in studies, get a job, get married and then take care of the parents.
It has been already proved in my experience that none of those children who are brought up in the worldly way have taken care of the parents. Especially in America, parents are only needed till they are self-supporting. Once the children start earning, they are in their own world where the parents, their spirituality, culture or spiritual heredity are unimportant to them. Thus they lose the spiritual values that their community is upholding. Needless to say, their ability to work for the Lord will also be lost.
Is there any cure for this problem? Yes indeed. Parents can teach the children about the advantages of growing in Christ. In the childhood days, modern parents do not take seriously the need of taking the children to church on a regular basis and connect them to God through their daily prayers and attending spiritual events. King Solomon said, 'Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it' (Pro 22:6) Yes they are in fact trained not to walk in the Lord's path. It is after they are driven out from the spiritual world, that the parents find the children behaving strange. Then it is too late for them to bring them back to any spiritual values. These are the people whom the Lord refers to as children who had agreed to work for him but later decided not to do.
At the same time there are non-Christians who exhibit Christ-like character in their life even though they have no commitment to Christ. They are like the son who initially disobeyed the father but in effect they did the will of the father. Sometimes I find that many of the non-Christians are much trust worthy, honest, decent, and peace-loving people. Many of them have much less bad habits like drunkenness, unclean life style and so on. And so one may wonder why do we call ourselves Christian! The way we conduct the baptism and wedding in such flamboyant style giving the impression that it is a great event. In effect they are done in pomp and glory not because they are going to live the Christian way with those sacraments but simply to show off their status. How can we be then the true workers of the Lord?
In the words of the Lord we hear that the truly disobedient people who are the sinners later obeyed the Lord. The tax collectors and prostitutes entered the kingdom of God while the so called believers did not. Those who followed the Law of Moses, and obeyed all the rules and regulations did not enter the kingdom of God whereas those sinners in the eyes of the public repented and obeyed the Lord and entered the Kingdom of God.
What kind of children should we be? In these days of the memory of St. Mary, let us follow the model of St. Mary's obedience, 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word'. May the Lord help us to be obedient to Him.
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