Readings: Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32
Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world. The readings proclaim God’s mercy that leads us to radical conversion. The gospel of this Sunday focuses our attention on God’s invitation to the kingdom and our response to that proclamation of God’s mercy. There is an amazing story about Michael, a creedal Catholic from Philadelphia. While in Junior High, Michael’s mom got sick and died and Michael was so mad with God that he drifted away from Church. The company he kept led him to slide further away from God. Twenty years later, he saw an ad about “Catholics Returning Home” and when he called the office, he was right away connected to a parish. When Michael called the number, the pastor answered and invited him to come over, and so the journey back home began with that invitation and his positive response. Michael was led into the sacrament of reconciliation where he rediscovered the good news of God’s mercy and compassion. What struck Michael most was that he was accepted just as he was without any questions. Michael was led into an encounter with Christ that further led him into a radical conversion to follow Jesus Christ.
I tell this story because Jesus in the parable of the two sons in the Gospel of this Sunday proclaims the good news of radical conversion. We notice that the father takes the initiative to invite his two sons. Even after saying “no” like the first son, God in his great mercy gives us a chance to say “yes”. The parable of the two sons is addressed to the chief priests and religious elders who had just challenged the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and so rejected God’s invitation to the kingdom. The purpose of the parable is to let the religious leaders judge themselves on the grounds of which son did the father’s will. Their own judgement is that they are like the second son who says “yes” and then refused to go into the vineyard. Jesus then takes the parable to a new level by contrasting these religious leaders to tax collectors and prostitutes who had said “no”, but on encountering Jesus were now radically converted and became faithful followers of Jesus.
The message is quite clear. Jesus invites us all to discipleship; to stewardship that requires a radical conversion to enter into a deeper relationship with him in such a way that we share his vision, mission and purpose. We are here because we have encountered Jesus who called us and who is now challenging us further into radical conversion. Like the first son, God does not reject us even when we say “no”. He gives us a chance to say yes. Like the story of Michael, our life’s journey draws us at times into embracing the invitation for radical conversion. May our hearts be open to God’s grace that transforms us into saying “yes”, to being good stewards of God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure.
©2017 John S. Mbinda