THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR
The parable is one of the clearest and simplest ones. A father goes to his two sons to ask them to go work in the vineyard. The first answers him with a resounding negative: «I don’t want to». Later he thinks it over and goes to work. The second one reacts with a showy docility: «Of course I’m going, Sir». However, it’s all just words, since he doesn’t go to the vineyard.
The message of the parable is also clear and beyond any doubt. With God, what’s important isn’t «talking» but doing; what’s decisive isn’t to promise or confess, but to fulfill God’s will. Jesus’ words aren’t at all original.
What’s is original is the application that, according to Matthew, Jesus throws in the face of the religious leaders of that society: «In truth I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you». Is it true what Jesus says?
The Scribes talk constantly about the law: God’s name is always on their lips. The temple priests praise God without ceasing: their mouths are full of psalms. No one would doubt that they are doing the Father’s will. But things aren’t always as they appear. The tax collectors and prostitutes don’t speak to anyone about God. For quite a while now they have forgotten God’s law. However, according to Jesus, they are making their way before the high priests and the Scribes in the path of God’s kingdom.
What could Jesus see in those men and women despised by all? Maybe their humiliation. Perhaps a heart more open to God and more in need of God’s forgiveness. Possibly an understanding and a greater nearness to the least of society. Maybe less pride and arrogance than the Scribes and high priests.
We Christians have filled our 20 centuries of history with very beautiful words. We’ve built impressive systems that grasp Christian doctrine in deep concepts. However, today and always, the true will of the Father is being done by those who translate Jesus’ Gospel into deeds and those who are simply and trustingly open to his forgiveness.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf