This weekend, we are being invited to meditate on which son we are most like in the parable. Are we the son that says, No, I will not go… But then do in fact go? Or, are we the son that says, Yes Father, I will go. But then do not go?
Some of us might be thinking that we want to be a different son. A son that is not even an option in this parable. Intuitively, I think we all want to be that son that says, Yes Father, I will go! But Jesus does not give us this option… But, I think we actually are both sons…
The first son, responds with a No, but then does go into the vineyard. I think many of us can relate to this son. The initial “No” is that tendency in each of us to sin. One of the most basic definitions of sin is when our will does not line up with God’s will. So, if all of us are honest with ourselves, I think most of us would admit that sometimes we struggle with anger, jealousy, gossip, and unforgiveness. Sometimes we struggle to live the life that God has called us to live. Any struggle with sin in our lives is a “No” to God. But, I am also confident that for most of us here, we are striving for conversion. We are striving to live the way that God has called us to live. And so, after our initial “No”, we have a change of heart. And we go back to God in attempt to be more obedient to his plan for each of us. This is why we go to confession because we recognize the No’s and desire to say Yes more often. This is how we are the first son.
But we could also be the second son. The second son is the one that says yes but does not Go… Here is the point for Jesus in this parable. He is speaking to the Pharisees. And, Jesus is frustrated that the Pharisees have witnessed the conversion of sinners. Instead of having hearts moved by the conversion of sinners, they scoff at them. How could God save those people? The hearts of the Pharisees are hardened. They are like the second son. They have said “Yes” to God, but they have failed to seek a deeper conversion in their own lives. They have failed to allow the conversion of others move them to conversion.
So why did Jesus not give us a third option? I think the answer is that Jesus wants us to be the first son. Jesus knows that conversion is a lifelong task. It is not something accomplished right away. We are living in the moment of transformation. That is, the struggle, or temptation, to say “no” will persist until the day God calls us home.
Our first reading gives us greater insight into God’s patience with us. “God does not take pleasure in the death of a sinner; he desires rather that the sinner should live, but this means that the sinner must change his ways”. When we turn away from our sins, then [we] shall surely live, [we] shall not die. Here’s how the first reading is connected to the Gospel: the wicked one who turns from his ways is like the first son, the person who initially says no to the Lord, but then has a change of heart.
So, Jesus is highlighting the quality in the first son that is of great value. This was willing to be converted, and to change his mind. He recognized his need for God. This is what Jesus is trying to convince the Pharisees. He wants them to recognize that their hearts need to be converted, that they need God!
My friends, this week, may we take time to meditate on the ways that we have said “no” to God and to consider how God is challenging us to change our lives. God desires for us to live lives of integrity. That does not mean we are perfect. But rather, if we are Jesus’ disciples, the life of a Christian has integrity when it is open to conversion, open to allowing his heart to be expanded, and opened to turning away from sin. May the Eucharist we receive today to strengthen our resolve to turn from sin and remind us of our great need for God.
In Christ’s Friendship,