28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said th
e same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”“The first,” they answered.Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Reflection, by Fr Aldo, sx
Conversion is not only about shifting to another religion or stop living a sinful life, but it is also about changing the way we look at and relate with God. The parable of today challenges us to see God in a different light. We often project our ways of thinking on to God, forgetting that the ways of God are different from the ways of humans. The parable has three characters: one father and two sons. The listeners of Jesus would immediately conclude that the father represents God, but what about the two sons, who are they, or who do they represent? The father sent the two sons to work in his vineyard. The first one said “yes” with enthusiasm and the second said “no” and grumbled. At this point Jesus’ listeners would begin to understand. The first son represents Israel and the second son represents the pagans. But this would create some confusion in their minds. How dare Jesus to elevate the pagans, those who have been always equaled to dogs, to the dignity of a son? And there are more surprises for the listeners along the way.
As Jesus goes on, he says that the first son, who was very good in words, said yes but did nothing. And on the other hand, the second son, who had said no and grumbled, regretted the negative answer he gave to his father, thought it over and at the end went to work in the vineyard. Now, for Jesus’s audience, this is too much! The allusion that Israel was worse than the pagans would be simply scandalous. And yet, that was the truth, the people of Israel had indeed failed to keep their promises over and over again throughout the ages. Thinking of us how can we relate ourselves to this parable? We risk committing a serious mistake by jumping to the conclusion that we are like second son. We risk rejoicing that as Christians we are active in the Lord’s vineyard and condemn the infidelity of the People of Israel. But it would be much more appropriate for us to become aware that all through history God continues to have two sons. Whether in our society in general or in the Church there have been always two sons. Many say “yes” in baptism, but then, their lives will prove that that “yes” was just an empty word. On the other hand, there are people who never say an explicit and public “yes” to God, but all through their lives they sincerely love others, they make sacrifices for others and selflessly do remarkable works for the common good of all. Even though not baptized, these people might be the real children of God. At this point, let us also not waste time classifying people we know into two groups: those who are like the first son and those who are like the second. Most probably these two sons represent a reality which is part of each one of us. We are carriers of the attitudes of those two sons. Rather, let us strive to be like the third son (which the parable does not mention), the one who says yes and also does the work. And as you get busy, ask yourself: am I working for the vineyard of my Father, or am I busy with my own vineyard? Sometimes we do great work that might appear as a service for the Kingdom of God, but in reality we are just building our own kingdom. Those who don’t take for granted that what they do is the will God, but rather are conscious of how they have distanced themselves from him, they are actually creating the pre-disposition to become the first beneficiary of the Kingdom, as did some sinners, publicans and prostitutes. To work in the vineyard of the Lord is not about being busy with religious practices, but to fulfill the commandment of loving one’s neighbor. Let Jesus, the obedient Son par excellence be our example of love, our inspiration and our strength. Amen.