“A man had two sons.” That’s the perfect opening line Jesus uses in today’s story. You remember the story – the man ordered his two sons to work in his vineyard, one said yes but didn’t go, the other answered no but later went.
Jesus’ query to the chief priests and elders is to ask which son did the will of his father. Obviously, the emphasis is on the doing, the action. The contrast here is between intention and performance, word and deed. Clearly the person who performs is held up as the one to emulate. Unfulfilled promises are worthless. It reminds me of the old adage – “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
But, what about the story behind the story? Why did each son change his mind? There is nothing, no insight in the story as to why they changed their minds. And yet, if you or I were either of those sons, we would have had an explanation as to why we changed our minds. Moreover, it would have been very important to us that our explanation was heard and understood. We want to be seen as reasonable and so we love to explain! But this story has no complexity.
It looks like Matthew kept the story uncluttered so we could not miss the message. He wanted us to know that we must do the will of the Father. Saying we will, but not following through is pathetic. Changing our minds after first refusing, is wholly acceptable. Ezekiel had the same thought in the first reading when he says: “He who turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life”.
God bless you all,
View the photos from Father Dan Fox farewell liturgy on June 29, 2014.
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