ANSWER THE CALL TO GOD’S VINEYARD
Many years ago I was doing an exposure programme for a month at the drug addict rehabilitation centre. During my stay in the centre I came to know them better after hearing their life stories and how they were involved in substance abuse. They had shared with me the reasons for their relapses and some of their reasons were due to family difficulties, relationship crisis with their spouses, stress issues, etc. Many of them were struggling in overcoming the challenges of addiction. One guy was sharing with me that he had return for the fourth time into the rehab centre in order to get a help from the drug addiction. Each time when he was leaving the rehab centre, he left with a very strong will power of saying “no” to drugs. He told me that he had resisted many times and he had repented and turned completely around but still found himself falling for the substance and relapsed. He always cried to himself, “Can I change myself?”
In the Gospel (Matt 21: 28-32) today, Jesus illustrates on repentance. He begins with a parable about a man who had two sons. The first son, who has a strong will power, at first he says, “I will not go” and he rejects his father’s request but after giving much thought, he changes his mind and heart and he went to work in the vineyard. This son represents the tax collectors and prostitutes, who repented and did what was right.
The second son, who says, “Certainly, sir” but he doesn’t go and work in the vineyard that day. He has no intention to fulfil his father’s request. The second son represents Israel’s leaders who showed the way of uprightness but refuse to believe in repentance. This is what Israel’s leaders – the Jewish, Pharisees and Sadducees were lacking. They thought they were superior and they had no further need to hear God’s Word or obey to God’s will.
The question arises from the Gospel that Jesus wants to know “Which of the two did the will of his father?” The one who repents and does the will of his father that is the first son who obeyed to his father and he went to the field to work, or the second son who replied to his father with a “yes”, but he never went to work in the vineyard.
This reminded me of the guy whom I encountered in the rehab centre. He had relapsed a few times. Each time he left the rehab centre with repentance heart from his wickedness as the Gospel passage says, “Yes sir, I will go” but he still didn’t go. This is short of saying that he had failed to keep his promises.
In both scenarios, the sons need to repent.
Therefore, we need to have a change of hearts and minds. God promises us that nothing can prevent us from saying “yes” to God’s call or invitation to be a part in the Kingdom of God but our “yes” responses must be made with that open mind and a change of heart.
In the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, it explains that everyone has an opportunity to repent. It appears that the Israelites spent time grieving and complaining that “our ancestors” for generations disobeyed Torah (the Law) and worshipped false gods and did awful things. But Ezekiel holds out a ray of hope for the likes of the first son in the Gospel, who “repents of your wickedness and do what is just and right, and you will live,” (Ez 18: 28). Ezekiel tells us that each of us responsible for his/her own sin. Here, we are required to always empty ourselves, and seek forgiveness for our sins and believe even more fully that Jesus is the Lord and we will live in the Spirit of the Lord.
We have the choice to either be like the first son or the second, sometimes both in different scenarios. What is more important in life, as the follower of Christ Jesus, is to realise that we are weak and can be broken at times. We need that change of hearts and minds, for better holiness. If the change of heart and mind happens in our lives, we will live better. Humility and warm kindness to each other, our neighbours, and constantly seek to be forgiving makes us closer to be true followers of Christ Jesus.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy