THEY ARE MAKING THEIR WAY AHEAD OF YOU
The parable is so simple that it seems to be beneath the dignity of a great prophet like Jesus. However it’s not directed to a group of children that run about around them, but to «the high priests and elders of the people», who pursue him when he comes to the Temple.
According to the story, a father asks two of his sons to go to work in his vineyard. The first answers him sharply: «I will not go», but he doesn’t forget his father’s request and ends up working in the vineyard. The second reacts with admirable availability: «Certainly, sir», but it all ends up just words. No one will see him working in the vineyard.
The message of the parable is clear. The religious leaders who listen to Jesus are also agreeable. Before God, what’s important isn’t «speak», but «do». In order to fulfill the will of the Father in heaven, what’s decisive aren’t the words, promises and prayers, but the deeds and the daily living.
What’s surprising is Jesus’ application. His words couldn’t be stronger. Only the Gospel-writer Matthew picks them up, but there’s no doubt that they come from Jesus. Only Jesus had that freedom in the face of the religious leaders: «In truth I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God ahead of you».
Jesus is speaking from his own experience. The religious leaders have said «yes» to God. They are the first to speak about God, about God’s law and about God’s Temple. But when Jesus calls them to «seek God’s kingdom and God’s justice», they close themselves to his message and don’t enter by that path. They say «no» to God with their resistance to Jesus.
The tax collectors and prostitutes have said «no» to God. They live outside of the law, they are excluded from the Temple. Yet when Jesus offers them God’s friendship, they listen to his call and take steps toward conversion. For Jesus there’s no doubt: the tax collector Zacchaeus, the prostitute who had washed his feet with tears, and so many others… ar going ahead on «the path of God’s kingdom».
On this path are going ahead not those who make solemn professions of faith, but those who open themselves to Jesus, taking concrete steps of conversion to the Father’s project.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf