As someone who studied math, when I come across this Gospel, I think of the other possible sons that the man in the Gospel could have had. The first son says he will not work in the vineyard but changes his mind and works, while the second son says he will work but never actually does. Couldn’t the man have had a son that said yes to the father’s task and actually completed it? Wouldn’t that be a perfect son, like me? Or couldn’t the man have had a son that said no, and then didn’t complete his task? Wouldn’t that be a son who was completely depraved and separated?
Of course, you could make up those possibilities, but Christ only puts two options in the story for a reason. Why? Well, none of us are perfect and none of us are completely depraved from God’s grace! And yet, don’t we put ourselves and others in those categories all the time?
How often do we try to pursue perfection, not only in our work and relationships, but also in our spiritual life? How many of us walk around thinking that nothing is wrong, and that everything is just fine? It’s an allusion that usually moves from indifference to despair. Usually those who believe they are perfect eventually see their allusion crumble and end up falling into despair! It confirms what the prophet Ezekiel shares with us in our first reading: “Thus says the Lord: You say, ‘The LORD’s way is not fair!’ Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” (Ezekiel 18:25)
The Lord is not expecting us to be perfect, but to seek his mercy and love and to turn back to him when we fall. To live a life of conversion means that we can never stop turning back to him. Let us not fall into this unfair way of thinking: where we feel either too perfect for the Lord, or too far from calling out to him in our failures. Let us always trust that it is never too late to be redeemed by him. When we call out to him, the Lord will always respond!