26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It's odd what a good walk can do for the soul! I was musing on that Gospel passage about the vineyard owner and his two sons. One who tells his father he won't do something then later relents, the other who says yes, then doesn't do anything! (Mt 21: 28-32) Part of me wants to link myself with the first son, but as I was wandering through the fallen brown and yellow leaves, a sudden flash came into my head of me doing the same thing a long time ago when I was a little boy.
There I was kicking the autumn foliage, but this time with an undercurrent of annoyance, 'I won't do that!' I remembered my young self saying to my Mother when I was asked to look after my sister, but I also know that in the end I did actually do what I'd been asked, reluctantly. A silly memory? No! It made me realize that I didn't want to become like the one who doesn't do anything!
How does that help us understand the power of Jesus' forgiveness, the answer to his question: which one of the two did his father's will or in his message, God's will? We all want to say' I am', in my imagination I pictured the crowds who followed Jesus, the mingled bunch of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, as well as the virtuous. Always Jesus finds ways of forgiving the sinner and warns the religious person to watch out and not fall into the trap of false pride or arrogance.
Then it came to me, that all of us on a faith journey with Christ cannot drift along and be complacent, if we do we find ourselves giving lip service to the great commandment. We are then very much like the son who says 'I will' and then does nothing. How? By not engaging with our faith, making it part of our daily lives. We say prayers, make responses in the Liturgy, sing hymns, read words of holiness, but if none of that makes any connection with us, then we are the non doers. The sinners Jesus paints for us are real people, passionate, bad, angry, filled with vice, but they are also fully alive and because of that they hear God calling to them and they change. The question is, can we?
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church, Oxford