“…you did not later change your minds and believe him” (Mt 21:32).
Jesus again is challenging those in the religious establishment of his time that refused to see what was right before their eyes. That John the Baptist was moving the hearts and mind of the people to prepare the way for the Lord, that through the healings of Jesus, the blind could now see, the deaf could now hear the lame could walk, lepers were healed, demons were exercised, and people’s sins were forgiven.
Jesus’ parable clearly shows that those in authority were like the son who heard the will of their father, said yes to his request but did not in the end follow the father’s will. The other son represented those on the peripheries, those looking in from the outside of society. They too were invited by the father to work in the vineyard. They originally said no but then would repent and come to their senses and follow the will of their father.
The religious rulers Jesus was challenging were most likely fervent in their faith and zeal to serve God when they first said yes to his call and then over time, something happened. We could speculate but we cannot say for sure what. Most likely it was different for each one. What is revealed in the Gospel accounts is that those leaders refusing to see Jesus for who he was were no longer saying yes to the Father.
Pope Francis has been expressing the same radical message of the Gospel in his challenge for the Church leadership to repent. There is to be a wholehearted yes to the will of God. To say yes, there needs to be a no to abuse, clericalism, hypocrisy, elitism, sexism, racism, entitlement, corruption, and the like. Those who are leaders of the Church are to be shepherds who smell like their sheep.
The message of the Gospel is about relationship not lordship over another. There is one Lord, Jesus the Christ. We are to be like him and serve one another, accompany and empower one another. That means we need to be aware of each other’s needs, then pray for and assist each other where we are able. To be there for one another we need to resist the temptations of complacency, comfort, and indifference.
Pope Francis does not just challenge the leadership but us as well. Advent is the time for us to look in the mirror and with humility see where and when we are saying no to God. When we do so, we can then decide to turn around and change our minds like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, see Jesus present to us in each other, and be open again to allow God to happen in our lives.