As you guys may know, I’m a huge basketball fan (this is Joe, not Stacy, by the way… not sure if Stacy is a huge basketball fan or not!). This is a while ago now, but back in the early 2000’s the Lakers with star players Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant leading the way and Phil Jackson coaching were dominating the NBA. Their team had a lot of talent and won three NBA championships in a row from 2000-2002. After losing in the NBA finals in 2004, Shaq changed teams and Phil Jackson quit coaching the Lakers for the time being. What could have been an even greater NBA dynasty was cut short due to dysfunction within the organization. Phil Jackson ended up writing a book about this team and what it was like coaching them. Jackson said, “Ask Shaq to do something, and he'll say, 'No, I don't want to.' But after a little pouting, he'll do it. Ask Kobe and he'll say, 'O.K.' and then he will do whatever he wants.” From this one quote, you can see how dysfunctional this team became when their star players behaved this way.
This story about Shaq and Kobe reminds me of the parable in the Gospel reading from Matthew this Sunday. Jesus tells a parable where a man has two sons and asks them both to work in his vineyard. The first son says that he will work for his father but then changes his mind and doesn’t go to the vineyard to work. The second son says that he won’t work in the vineyard but then he also changes his mind and goes to work. Jesus asked those who were listening which son did his father’s will. It is obvious that it was the son who actually went to work in the vineyard who did his father’s will. Like in the story of Shaq and Kobe, it was Shaq who did his coach’s will even though it was Kobe who initially said that he would do what his coach said.
I think there are ways in which I, and likely many of you, can associate with both Shaq and Kobe or with both sons in the parable. The sons in the parable are us and the father is God. Being a Catholic Christian means that we are telling God our Father that we will work in his vineyard and we will do His will. By being Catholic and having been baptized and confirmed or looking forward to being confirmed soon, we are all telling God, “Yes, I will work in your vineyard.” This means that we are telling God that we will live and work for Him and follow His will in our lives no matter what. It is pretty easy to go through the motions and simply say like the first son, “Yes God, I will work in your vineyard”, but it is much more difficult to live that out. It is tough work working in a vineyard! We get out in school and the workplace and it is easy to forget our promise to God. It’s easy to say I don’t want to follow God’s will today, I’d rather please myself and commit some fun sins and stay away from the work in the vineyard. Working in God’s vineyard takes on many different forms for different people. Some people are called to be priests or nuns, some are called into full or part time ministry, some are called to be married and have children. No matter what our individual calling is, we are all expected to be a good witness to the faith we’ve been given and to live that faith out to those we come in contact with in our everyday life.
I can think of many times in my personal life where I have been the first son. I’ve told God that I’m going to do His will and live for Him but then completely turned my back on what I knew was right. I rejected God and stayed away from the vineyard I agreed to work in by deliberately sinning against Him.
As the parable shifts to the second son, I like to picture him saying no to his father because he had in his mind more important things to do. These things may have been sinful activities he wanted to participate in or they could have been things that weren’t inherently bad (like for us school, work, friends, sports, video games, TV, etc.) but he had let them become a priority in front of God in his life. I can relate to this son as well because how often do I say no to God because I’ve put other things in front of Him. The great thing about this part of the parable is that it’s not too late to change our mind. It’s not too late to say, “Father, what was I thinking? I’m going to come work in your vineyard!”.
Whether you associate with the first or second son, we have the awesome Sacrament of Reconciliation (available Saturdays from 3:45-4:30pm and by appointment) for when we’ve failed where we can come back to God and commit to Him. We move on from our sin and become the second son when he decided it was time to amend his life and go to work. The second son realized that he screwed up and did what he needed to do to fix the situation!
The second reading for this Sunday is from Philippians 2:1-11, and it shows us how to live for God or how to be the second son when he decided it was time to work. It tells us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. He humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. I would encourage you all to pick up a Bible or a missalette from one of the pews and spend some time reading and contemplating this passage of Scripture before going to mass on Sunday. It is a very powerful passage that teaches us to live our lives in humility for the glory of God.
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.