Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 21:28-32
October 1, 2017

It probably would have been a good idea for me to take this weekend off.

I say that because a preacher should practice what they preach. On this 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, I confess, I find that hard to do…practice what I am about to preach. You see, I am “a grumbler.”

Like many firstborn, I was the first to be enlisted to do household chores. Take care of your little sister! Come and dry the dishes, please! The lawn needs mowing!

Now, I’m not quite certain just when it was that the “grumbling” began, but most likely about the time that I realized that my siblings had reached the age when they were equally as capable as myself, but I was always the one to be called upon. I suspect as well that the “grumbling” intensified as the younger ones learned how to “excuse themselves” from either pitching in or for failing to do what they agreed to do. I know for a fact that the “grumbling” reached a feverish pitch when it became clear to me that they always got away with it…and I ended up doing what they said they would do.

So, I’m probably not the best person to preach on this set of Readings because personal experience has left me defensive of the kid that spent his whole day in the vineyard while his brother went his merry way. And my feelings are definitely not unique. Any confessor will tell you that at the top of the list of most frequently confessed sins is the frustration and resentment that responsible children feel over the way siblings seem to “get away with it.” Equally annoying is how parents seem to accept the excuses and pass on the work to the one they can count on. Why wouldn’t we grumble?

Had He asked for your opinion, how would you have answered the Lord? What do you think? Which of the two did his father’s will?

If we’re being honest, we “grumblers” would probably say: “neither!” We know the dark feelings that erupt into “grumbling”…as we trudge off to the vineyard to get the job done. Deep in our hearts, we know that our labors are somehow tainted by our bad attitudes. As for the kid who says: Sure, Dad…I’ll go spend the day in the vineyard, only to blow it off…how can that be doing his father’s will?

Which of the two did his father’s will? Isn’t the correct answer: “neither?” Or is the correct answer to Jesus’s question: It’s not for me to say.

That certainly seems to be the correct answer if we carry forward the lesson from last Sunday. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts…and God’s ways are not our ways! Moreover, last week seemed to be a cautionary lesson against judging others…and even about the futility in grumbling and complaining.

In our First Reading this week, God echoes back to us the complaint we so often raise: This isn’t fair! Read on and you’ll hear Ezekiel warn about that kind of attitude, encouraging change. The Gospel itself concludes with a call to change. And the change we are encouraged to consider is laid out plainly in the Second Reading.

Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus!

If, then, I have to practice what I preach…I need to change my attitude, forego the grumbling, and get the job done, without looking over my shoulder to see what the other guy is doing. How about you?