“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” – Matthew 21:31
You know the story. The two brothers. Their father asks both to go work in the vineyard. The first says “no,” but later, changes his mind and gets the job done. The other, says “yes” but does not go. Jesus then turns to the listening pharisees and elders, cloaked in their public esteem, and shocks by saying that outcasts and sinners have a better chance of entering the kingdom than they!
At a simple level, the parable calls us to personal integrity; being good for our word; doing what we say we’ll do; being the people we profess to be. Whether for a nation that reneges on an agreement, an institution that promises more than it can really give, a person who signs a contract then suddenly breaks it, or the parent who makes no time for his child, integrity is at risk where one does not follow through on a spoken commitment, where one’s word is hollow. Truly, the fullness of intention is action. Proof is in the doing!
At another level, and perhaps more significantly, this parable cautions against giving lip service to God! Who, after all, does the Father’s will? Which brother? Who will gain entry into the Kingdom? The answer: those who work in the vineyard. Those whose beliefs take root in Jesus and whose daily behaviors align with His; whose lives demonstrate faith-in-action, and not those who appear most righteous, who only talk a “good game.” The Pharisees and elders say they do God’s will and probably have convinced themselves that their ways are God’s ways. Jesus tells them otherwise! Jesus calls us to a living discipleship built on care and love, especially for those most in need.
It’s interesting to me that the first brother “changes his mind” and perhaps enters the task somewhat reluctantly. But he does it! Doing the right thing sometimes does not come easily. Sometimes we don’t get it right the first time. God knows we’re not perfect at it and allows us the grace – and the time – to figure things out. Our forgiving God gives “do-overs”! If I were scripting a movie scene for this parable that called for an accompanying song, I’d probably come up with some quiet Willie Nelson tune about outlaws and desperadoes searching for redemption and second chances. God would welcome them in their imperfections. Good gracious – prostitutes and tax collectors made it! Could Met fans be next?
Loving God, grant me continued grace to see Your way for me.. to say “yes” to what You ask… to act on that “yes” and so honor Your Son by sharing His love with others each day. Amen.
Brother Thomas Puccio, C.F.X.
To view the full Advent 2021 booklet in English, click here.
For Spanish, click here.
For French, click here.