Jesus said to the chief priests and the 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.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he 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.” (Matthew 21:28-32)
When I was in seminary, my spiritual Director said; “Unless you are moving forward, you are falling backward.” It is impossible simply to maintain our faith. We just cannot hold on to it as it is today. Our relationship with God is either growing or it is falling backward.
The reminder of moving forward is captured in today’s scripture recounting the tale of two sons. One son is moving closer to God’s will and the second is clearly moving away.
The season of Advent challenges us to review our faith truly. All of Advent, in the words of St. John the Baptist, is meant to bring us to change our behavior, not just to say “Amen!” to the Lord but to make our life an illustration of it.
All of us have said words and made choices we regret. Our mistakes have consequences, both for others and ourselves. Today’s scripture challenges us to use those consequences to lead us to a better place.
This is what makes the first son in today’s gospel a model for us. This son said no. He refused his father’s request to go and work in the vineyard. But then he recognized the consequences of his refusal. He remembered the disappointment in his father’s face. He began to feel the strain that his refusal placed upon their relationship. He allowed those consequences to change him. He let his disobedience become obedience, his refusal become acceptance, his “no” become a “yes.”
All of us have fallen short. All of us know that there are consequences to the mistakes we have made. But those consequences can be helpful if we use them. The scripture asks us today to think about the effects of our poor decisions and allow them to change us.
If we remember how our words hurt someone else because of their cruelty, we can allow those words to lead us to be a person who treats others with respect and patience. Our infidelity can lead to commitment, our indulgence to service. Embarrassment over our prideful actions can motivate us to care for the poor and the oppressed.
We have all sinned. But if we look at the consequences of our mistakes, sin need not be our final condition. We may have hurt the people we love. We may have made a mess of our responsibilities. We may have said no to the God who calls us. But it is not too late. There is still time to go and work in the vineyard.
With God’s grace we can recover from such failures. We can get back on the right track. The big danger, however, is not in failing. The big danger is complacency, to think that we can simply hold on to the grace we have. We cannot presume that, because we have been blessed in the past, we can slip our spiritual life into neutral and simply cruise along. There is no cruising. Unless we are growing, we are falling backward.
So, the wise person chooses to increase the momentum of growth. The faithful disciple chooses to be thankful, to serve, to deepen the understanding of God’s love today.
Now is the time to act.
Now is the day to build our relationship with God.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, change my heart that I may only desire that which is pleasing to you. Help me to respect your will and give me the strength, joy and perseverance to carry it out wholeheartedly.”
God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our speech and by our actions that we respect his will and do it. God offers each one of us the greatest treasure possible – indestructible peace, joy, and friendship with him in his everlasting kingdom. We can lose that treasure if we refuse the grace – the free gift of God’s blessing and strength – which the Lord Jesus has won for us through his victory on the cross. The Lord Jesus fills us with the gift of the Holy Spirit who works in and through us for the glory of God. Do you seek to please God and respect his will and loving plan for your life? Allow the Holy Spirit to to fill your heart with the peace, joy, and righteousness of God’s kingdom (Romans 14:17).