Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Advent Week 3 Tuesday

Readings: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Matthew 21:28-32

'I must call round sometime.' 'It's great that we've met again, we must keep in touch.' 'It's a shame that we only meet at funerals.' So often promises are made that are not kept. Our intentions often run ahead of our time and energy. And the road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. All those things we say we will do but never actually get round to doing ...

Jesus tells of two sons in today's gospel reading. One son agreed to do what his father asked, changed his mind, and failed to do it. The other refused to do what his father asked, changed his mind, and did it. Which of them did the Father's will?

The point is clear enough. Those in whom God's will is first made known, and who agree to live in accordance with its demands, may fail to be true to their word. Others who at first seem to pay no attention to God's will, 'in the end', or 'deep down', may actually fulfil God's will in their lives.

There is, of course, the possibility of a third son, the one who says he will do what his father asks and who actually does it. Jesus himself is, clearly, this kind of son. Although he does not speak of himself in this parable, the whole teaching of the New Testament about the relationship between Jesus and his Father testifies to this unity in his work.

Between Jesus and God the Father a unique and extraordinary unity prevails. United in conviction and in love, with a common purpose and a common mind, there is no competition between them. Each is self-effacing in that the Father is 'all for the Son' and the Son is 'all for the Father'. They find their identity in relation to each other. The success of the Son is the glory of the Father and the Son's work - his food - is to do the Father's will.

The garden of Gethsemane and the hill of Calvary remind us of the human struggle that this unity of Father and Son demanded. There are forces which would prevent the success of love, forces that pull down, tear apart, interfere. 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' and 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit', are two sides of one mysterious coin. The eternal love of Father and Son is unravelled before our eyes in the human career of Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh.

The Christian faith calls Jesus 'Son' and it calls him 'Word'. The Son is the image of the Father, draws his life from the Father, learns from the Father. The Word is the expression of the Father, all that is in the Father - his wisdom and intention and plan. These eternal relationships are made known to us through the life and work and teaching and death of Jesus.

The third member is 'the Spirit', in whom the work of Father and Son is brought to completion and in whom we are taken into the network of relationships that is the Blessed Trinity, to become members of the family of God, daughters and sons of the one Father, sisters and brothers to Jesus.

To be true to one's word is a practical and admirable thing in human affairs. The relationship of Jesus and the Father teaches us that God is true to his word. He is faithful to the original purpose of his love. He calls all to share life in Christ, in the love of the Father and in the Spirit of tenderness.

For us to become united in our convictions and in our love, to live with a common purpose and a common mind, is already to 'become like God' and to live, as Jesus did, as a daughter or son of God.

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