Reflection for Advent 3: Tuesday (Matthew 21.28-32)

Reading: Matthew 21.28-32 

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:  ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’

Matthew 21.28-32 NRSV


In a world that values instantaneous gratification we often find ourselves being asked to make decisions, or to give our support to some cause or the other, without being given time to reflect upon the commitment we are being asked to make. As we walk down the street, charity workers ask us to sign up to regular payments in support of their particular ‘good cause’. In meetings, we are asked to vote in favour of someone’s pet project without having been offered adequate time to weigh up the pros and the cons. In the world of on-line shopping, we are pressurised into accepting those ‘amazing’ one-off bargains that will never, ever be repeated. Because we like the instantaneous gratification of a speedy decision we find ourselves falling for these ploys time and time again.

In today’s reading Jesus offers us a parable about two sons who answer in haste, but then come to the contrary view as time moves on. The reaction of the first son to his father’s request is: I will not, while the second son’s immediate response is: I go. But then, after a time of reflection, they both change their minds. The apparently compliant son reneges on his promise, and the refuser becomes the one who helps.

The obvious challenge for us is to reflect upon which son we are most closely aligned with. However, before we rush into committing ourselves one way or the other, let us pause and reflect upon the rest of Jesus’ words.

Jesus moves from the parable of the two sons into a comparison between the chief priests and the elders of the people and the tax-collectors and the prostitutes, those whom the religious leaders would describe as being ‘beyond hope’. The religious leaders are those who appear to have said, ‘Yes,’ to God, but do not live out their promises. Those considered to be beyond hope heard John’s call to repentance and saw Jesus’ wondrous signs, and then turned away from the sinful life and received the reward of those who are truly righteous.

Let us pray for the humility that will allow us to change our minds. Let us pray that we might see the wisdom of following Christ. Let us pray for the courage to help others turn from sin and follow the path which leads to the kingdom of God.