Many parents can identify with the Gospel today. Jesus is not speaking about wayward children. He is speaking about the Chief Priests and the Elders. They were very upset with Jesus. After all, they were the ones of recognized authority. They were the ones with all the religious training. They were the learned ones who kept the Law of Moses.
Jesus tells them that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter into the Kingdom before them. He tells them that they are like the son who tells the father that he will go and work in the vineyard, but does not. They had agreed to serve the Lord. That was the point and intent of their preparation and training as religious leaders. But, instead they were often found frustrating the Will of Father God. More interested in laws and rules.
While the poor, the widows and orphans went begging in the street, the public sinners – the ones who at first said no to God – were the ones who listened to Jesus and followed Him.
While Jesus never condoned the sin, He never condemned the sinner.
It was His presence, His acceptance and His forgiveness that restored their self-worth and their self-esteem. The scribes and the Pharisees often taunted Jesus because of the company He kept.
If you were of God, you would know that these people are public sinners and you would have nothing to do with them. Jesus’ reply was, “You make God too small. You try to limit Him. You confine the Love of God to the socially acceptable.” The scribes and Pharisees failed to realize that God’s love is a love that does not measure.
It is a love that shines on the poor and the rich; on the sinner as well as the Saint.
The Gospel has another message for us today. It is that promises can never take the place of performance. Fine words are never a substitute for fine deeds. Remember the son who said yes he would go, and did not? He was even respectful to his father in his answer and called him “Sir.”
We can come here every week, say all kinds of prayers. Be very respectful of God. But what really matters, what we will be judged upon is how we act out there, day in and day out. We do often forget that God is not just for Sunday; God is for every day of the week.
Of course, our love of God takes priority over all else. Unless we love God, we lose God.
But the first commandment of the law makes no Jewish or Christian sense without the second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.
We are not asked to work miracles. Often, all we need to do is share a kind word, a smile. Perhaps, a phone call or a hospital visit.
But we so often stifle these simple human kindnesses: “I am afraid of being rejected, I have enough problems of my own. “I am terribly shy. I’ve had a rough day, it’s Miller time.” A thousand and one excuses to avoid getting involved.
Go about your life with eyes open, hand outstretched. Time and again you will come upon someone: A friend, enemy, stranger, someone who calls to you.
Back in the fourth century, a remarkable Bishop and splendid Apostle to the poor, St. John Chrysostom, preached to his people. He said, “Do not adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother or sister. For they are the most precious temple of all.”