For a ship or plane to reach its destination, it has to be constantly checking that it is following the correct route and making the necessary corrections. And if while driving we realize that we have taken a wrong turn, common sense tells us to turn around and get back on the right road. The same is true in the spiritual life and this is what today's readings tell us about.
How willing are we to change, to correct our course, to admit that we were wrong? Jesus poses these questions through the graphic parable of two sons whom their father sends away to work. The first expressed his willingness to go, but did not. Perhaps he intended to go, but got distracted. And then, once he made the wrong decision, he was unable to change and do the right thing. But the other, though he was wrong to refuse his father's request at first, recognized his mistake and actually set out for the vineyard to begin work.
The first son, despite his apparent good will, continued down the path of disobedience. The second son was wise enough to turn around and ended up in the right place. Next, Jesus applies the parable to the chief priests and elders, as well as to the tax collectors and prostitutes. The latter, although they were going in the wrong direction by their sinful actions, had the good sense to change direction, to convert, thanks to the preaching of the righteous John the Baptist.
The priests and elders, although in principle they lived a "yes" to God, as a result of their state of life, in reality they did not respond to God's call through John. Their apparent yes turned into a true no.
The willingness to rectify is essential to the Christian life. We should never think that our position prevents us from admitting that we are wrong. This can happen, for example, with people in authority, even with parents. They think that their very authority prevents them from admitting their error, as if they would look bad by doing so. But in this way they only aggravate their mistake and go further and further down the wrong path.
We must all live in a state of repentance and that means rectifying many times a day. Asking for forgiveness is profoundly Christian. It is good to make numerous acts of contrition every day and to ask forgiveness also of others, whenever we need it, also of those under our authority. It is never too late to recognize that we have made a mistake, nor to turn back if we are on the wrong track.
God will always give us the grace we need to do so. And, of course, the best means to change from the wrong path to the right one is the Sacrament of Confession. There it is not only the prophet John who calls us to admit our sins, it is Jesus Christ himself who gives us the grace we need to confess them and free ourselves from them and start living in a new way, the right way.
Homily on the readings of Sunday 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.