Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
Matthew’s recalling of the parable of the two sons is in the context of Jesus’ conflict with the scribes and Pharisees. Luke also has a well known parable of two sons: the Prodigal Son, his elder brother and their loving Father. It has a different focus. But when you think about though, the basic facts of both parables are the same. There are two sons in each story, neither of whom are perfect examples of fidelity and obedience. None of the sons in these stories was the kind of son to bring full joy to his father. Yet in both stories one of the sons realizes how he has hurt his father. That realization, a sense of shame, brings about action that changes the condition of the son.
Yet, coupling the gospel with the Prophet Zephaniah is important. The prophet, preaching in the last days of the kings of Judea, sees Jerusalem as rebellious and polluted, accepting no correction and not trusting in the Lord.
He makes it abundantly clear that change does not come from human effort, but from God. "I will change and purify… my people". It is God alone who can accomplish this transformation and accomplish it magnificently: "From beyond the river of Ethiopia and as far as the recesses of the North, they shall bring me offerings". As a result of God’s action "they will pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them".
Here in the third week of Advent I struggle with the question: what kind of a son am I? Even dealing with that question is a grace from God. As we prepare for Christmas, may we be surprised how abundantly God will act in our hearts. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.