O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist
to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 34.1-6, 21-22
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
My soul shall glory in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look upon him and be radiant
and your faces shall not be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
But evil shall slay the wicked
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord ransoms the life of his servants
and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’
Most children have moments when they dig in their heels and resist the guidance of their parents. Some throw temper tantrums when they cannot get their own way and others go into long sulks. Sometimes this ‘phase’ in a child’s growing up is short-lived, vanishing quite early in their lives. At other times, the foot-stamping and anti-social behaviour can go on for a whole lifetime.
Similarly, some people can be trusted to follow-through on the commitments and promises they make to others, while others will say anything to get them out of a tight corner or to give them some sort of temporary social advantage. Again, the development of honesty and trustworthiness may come early in life, or it may never develop.
In today’s reading Jesus speaks of these two extremes: the sons who say one thing but do the opposite. One son reacts in a spirit of self-interest, but then comes to understand the need to do his father’s will. On the other hand, the second son takes the expedient path of saying that which will appease, but then lets his father down by failing to follow-through on his promise. The chief priests and the elders recognized that it was the first son who did his father’s will, however, they would probably have been deeply offended by the conclusion Jesus’ parable was leading them towards.
John the Baptist had been sent by God as a forerunner and a herald of the Good News that stood before them: Jesus Christ. The religious elite failed to heed John’s words. Whilst living lives of apparent piety, they were aligned with the son who promised much and delivered nothing. But, Jesus declared that there were others who seemed to do the opposite: the tax-collectors and the prostitutes, that is, those whose lifestyles would have placed them outside the acceptable boundaries dictated by the religious authorities. And yet, despite the lives they led, it was those outcasts who came to heed John’s message and believe.
Today’s reading is a challenge to each of us to consider how we react to God’s call in our lives. Do we live the outwardly pious life that makes us socially acceptable, whilst really following the agenda which gives us the highest level of personal comfort and pleasure? Or, do we acknowledge that our daily lives are flawed and in need of change, constantly striving to draw closer to the God we worship and to whom we pray for forgiveness and guidance? Which son are we?
Prayers of intercession
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Lord, your kingdom reaches from the heavens embracing the whole of creation. You call your Church to assist with your harvest, schooling people in your love. Give us willing hearts, hands and voices with which to respond to your summons.
Lord, you search the secret motives of those called to leadership, and reveal hypocrisy and virtue alike. Give us courage to scrutinise those who rule, and strengthen their integrity.
Lord, you see more fully into our hearts and all that we can become. We thank you for those who affirm and encourage our growth and development. Bring us to flourish in the warmth of your regard.
Lord, you know our needs and concerns before we ask. Hear us as we bring before you all who are ill or in special need. Bless them and bring them to rejoice in you.
Lord, there is no darkness that can extinguish your eternal light. In this faith we entrust to you those who have died. Raise us with them to your eternal kingdom.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven, the day draws near
when the glory of your Son will make radiant
the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.