Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
(Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Matthew 21:28-32)
“A man had two sons.” So begins the reading today from the Gospel of Matthew. So also begins Jesus’ parable of the so-called prodigal son found in the Gospel according to Luke. The phrase may also refer to the story of Adam, Cain and Abel. Each of these tales tells of choices made by the sons whether or not to do the father’s will. (In the case of Cain and Abel, the father is God Himself.) One son makes a half-hearted decision to please his father which ultimately proves wanting. The other son, in the gospel stories at least, demurs at first but ultimately decides to subject himself to the father’s will.
The stories teach that all people must choose between paying lip-service to God and acting to please him. That is, everyone must decide to either follow his or her own preferences or to do God’s will. To be sure, the right choice requires the grace of the Holy Spirit, but the Church teaches that the Spirit comes to everyone.
It is appropriate that we reflect on the choice now as we make immediate preparations for Christmas. The gospels present Jesus as the one who manifests the definitive will of God. Do we accept his ways as presented to us by his body, the Church? Or do we only make a nod to him by calling ourselves Christians but, more deeply, live for self-satisfaction?