Liturgy – from the Greek “leitourgia” -“The work of the people”

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Today’s reading speaks to us on many levels. As a parent, I can easily identify with the frustration the father must feel when he asks his sons to help. I can rejoice with him when the first son, who initially refused to help, changes his mind and does what was requested. And, I understand the disappointment the father must feel when the second boy says he will help, but never gets around to it.

As a parent, I can remember all too well my kids wanting me to do this, give them that, drive them here, let them go there. Now that they are adults, with kids of their own, they still want things of me, but more often they want to do things for me. Remember JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?” Let’s rephrase that to “Ask not what your family can do for you, but what you can do for your family.”

On a deeper level, this parable reminds us of last week’s reading. Latecomers or regulars, all are equally blessed by God. We can see how sinful people who initially don’t do as God asks, then eventually reform and do his will, are like the first son. They are the ones that God will bless. We can visualize people like the Pharisees who talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk. You’ve probably come across regular church goers who leave the parking lot with impatience, condemning their fellow parishioners who delay their getting home to watch the big game. God’s blessings are for those who do his will, not just talk about it. It’s not enough to just sit back and watch those who do God’s work, giving praise without real support.

There is yet another level we need to consider. We are the sons and daughters of God who have been asked to help. Our churches are in trouble not just because of the shortage of priests, but because so many of our parishioners are “too busy” or just plain apathetic when it comes to serving the Lord. We have grown up believing confirmation completed our religious responsibilities, believing that our ticket is punched and we’re good to go. But that attitude invites an inner withering. On the surface we may be a practicing Christian, but if we are not loving and serving God, we are corrupt inside. We are like the second son – words but no action. Every Sunday we are sent with the words “Go forth to love and serve the Lord” – sent to work in the vineyard. Our liturgy doesn’t end with Mass, it continues all day, and into our daily living. Let’s go forth today and really love and serve the Lord, this afternoon, this week, this year.

Linda Crowley