Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32
Which of the two did the father’s will?
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’
St. Ignatius reminds us in the Spiritual Exercises that “it is not great knowledge but the inner feeling and relish of things that fills and satisfies the soul.”
In this Gospel Jesus is continuing to be challenged by those who have been revered by their ‘great knowledge’, namely the chief priests and elders of the people. They are challenging his authority and listening with ears that are focused on correcting him. On the other hand, Jesus is listening with ears that are focused on connecting with them, and not only them but all the others who have gathered around the temple to listen to his teaching.
One can find a personal invitation in each Gospel. Here, I find Jesus invites me to contemplate ‘God’s will’ (which can be translated as ‘God’s heart’) in this parable. God’s will invites me into a deeper relationship, conversion and commitment to life. When my heart is in alignment with God’s, amazingly, the natural outcome is to respond with an act of love. In my own experience this is always in ways that are more than I could have imagined.
If I begin with the premise that we are already whole in God by the way we are created. (Julian of Norwich) then ourpurpose in the world is to receive and give love in our own unique God-given ways. God’s will is always about love. However, loving often brings opposition, as Jesus was constantly experiencing with the chief priests and elders.
Mary Ward experienced much opposition throughout her life, particularly in regard to leaders of the church. God’s will was her compass point, her starting point when things were difficult.
On 20th August 1628 she wrote “I begin with conformity to God’s will when contrary things happen, especially in all bodily infirmities, in which particular I am as yet most imperfect.”
In my prayer, I contemplate God’s will (God’s heart) in my life. Where is love in my life?
Following in Mary Ward’s footsteps, can I tune into my heart? Particularly when things are difficult, can I begin with this God-given compass point? Can I listen deeply for connection rather than correction? What choices might I resolve to make?