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Yes, No or Maybe – Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Jesus offers a story of the two sons of a man. He made the same request of each of them about working in the vineyard. The first said that he would not do it, but then changed his mind and actually did it. The second agreed to do it, but then backed out of his promise. The first son is commended for doing the will of the father.

It’s that famous sober second look. The first son no doubt went away and realized that he should have pleased his father and be more gracious in his response.

The second son said, yes, yes, yes. He was certainly giving the father what he wanted to hear. But then something else took over – laziness, a better offer, fear of missing his friends.

I’ve read that the most common response to online invitations is maybe, more so than yes or no. We like to keep our options open – what if something better comes along? By saying maybe, I can wait until the last minute to actually make a commitment one way or the other.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola has a prayer exercise that seems to fit with this simple parable from Jesus. The Three Classes of Persons shows us three ways of responding and choosing that which is more conducive to the glory of God.

The first class postpones their decision to get rid of their inordinate attachment to something. The hour of death arrives, and they still have not acted.

The second class wants it both ways. They are compromisers, basically hoping that God will come to them, and not the other way around.

The third class is wholeheartedly indifferent and wants what God wants. Perhaps the vineyard owner’s sons both needed to strive for that third class, to be open to what their father needed and wanted.  Both needed to keep their words and actions in harmony.

I’m occasionally confused by the Church’s choice of scripture passages for the celebration of Mass. If I were responsible, there is no way that I would offer a shorter version of the second reading, by lopping off Philippians 2: 6-11.

That hymn from Paul offers such poetic beauty in describing the humility and selflessness – abasement and exaltation – of Christ Jesus. Though he was in the form of God, … he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.

It is an important contribution to so-called kenotic (self-emptying) Christologies and has important elements of Isaiah and the Suffering Servant songs. It’s also reminiscent of the Letter to the Hebrews.  Christ emptied himself and entered our human condition in all its fullness and complications, with the exception of sin.

Let’s pray on this Sunday for the grace to deepen our commitment, and to allow it to always be grounded in Christ.