Gospel Meditation: Parable of the Two Sons
I offer a guided Ignatian meditation on today's Gospel. This is an invitation to let the scripture enter into your heart and mind and speak personally to you. Ignatius said that meditation specifically engages our memory, thoughts, and will. We hear the word of God, and we ponder it, noticing any words, images, or ideas that speak to our hearts. And we speak to God about all of this.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the text. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text.
If at any point during the guided meditation the scripture comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written meditation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
Background to the text
Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and elders who have been questioning his authority and its source, as they do throughout the Gospel of Matthew. They are the ones who publicly show that they are religious. By their public roles they proclaim that they have said “yes” to God and God’s commandments. But do they say yes in practice?
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for the the grace of humility.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly twice, savoring the words. The first time, just listen to get a sense of it, to hear what is being said. The second time, notice any word or phrase, image, or idea that speaks to your heart or “shimmers” for you. Stay with that word, image, or idea and ponder its meaning. Notice how it makes you feel. Savor the experience.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not, ' but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him."
Jesus starts with a parable in this scripture passage. Can you picture this story in your mind? A landowner and his two sons. A parent, with a claim on his children's’ loyalty and hearts, making a legitimate request. Imagine each scenario, as the landowner goes to his children and tells them to go to the vineyard. See the looks on their faces, hear their tone of voice, see whatever it is that makes them change from one course of action to the other.
What about each of these scenarios speaks to you? Where do you feel drawn?
Both of the landowner’s children disobey, though in different ways. One does his father’s will. When have you been each of these?
When you have been the one who says yes, but doesn’t go, what are you feeling during those times?
When you have been the one who says no, but then goes in the end, what are you feeling during those times?
Jesus teaching is rejected by the outwardly religious – and accepted by those considered sinners. How does this affect you? What might Jesus be inviting you to look at in your own life?
Take some time to talk with Jesus about what you have felt and experienced. Talk with him as with a friend, sharing and listening.
And when you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?