Suspend Judgment

Sunday Gospel Reflection
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 21:28-32 | October 1, 2023

Suspend Judgment
by Carlo S. Dureza

What I would refer to as “my generation” includes those who were children in the early 70s and could attest that cars back then had no air conditioning. Vehicle technology was not at its peak yet: no aircon, radios, phone charging ports, etc.

Car windows remained open as cars moved along highways. This was acceptable as traffic was manageable four decades ago. One afternoon, my papa took my brother and I to our family tailor to have some pairs of pants done. As we drove along the rotunda in the heart of Quezon Avenue, a truck from behind us belched out a lot of smoke. The fumes smelled awful!

My father, much concerned about our respiratory health, shouted, “Cover your nose!” Naturally, he didn’t want my brother and I to inhale the toxic fumes. I replied, “I don’t have to.” I didn’t cover my nose because I held my breath and didn’t breathe for a few seconds to prevent dirty air from entering my lungs. My brother simply said, “Yes, papa.” But, although he covered his nose, he was still breathing in the dirty air. Not to pin criticism on him, but he had this fear of not being able to breathe, even if just for a short moment. When we were kids, he grew restless whenever he had colds and would even cry frantically at night when he could not breathe easily. In hindsight, I thought that he may just have “followed” Papa’s order out of fear of getting scolded. Meanwhile, I was sharply reprimanded for not doing what our father asked us to do even if I still did protect myself from the smoke.

In today’s gospel, each of the two sons did differently when their father asked them to work in his vineyard. One said he would go to work but did not do so. The other declined to work but did so. They initially gave their word to their father but both eventually contradicted what they had said. It’s the opposite of saying “Yes” when you mean yes and “No” when you mean no.

But, we can’t really ascertain clearly the motives of each son. Did the older one tell an outright lie, play a joke on his father, or want to follow but encountered something which made him say otherwise? What thoughts did he have about his father’s order: self-interest, gratitude, indebtedness, vengeance? Same with the younger son.

In life, we can never or should never judge people. We have minds and hearts that seek the best for us. We have good qualities and bad qualities. This is our nature. We cannot deny our goodness and our frailties. We cannot compare people because we have different backgrounds, experiences, values, and desires. Only our Lord can see all of these. Only God can truly judge us.
Whatever our response to God’s invitation for us to join in His mission, all of us are given a chance to be transformed by Him if we allow His indwelling Spirit to work in us. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, He will never fail to bring us to God and to follow His will.

Let us always pray for a change of heart and conversion in Christ. This will allow us to “breathe” and enjoy the “clean air” of life’s blessings, our Father’s gifts to us all.

Happy Sunday! God bless!

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