What can we learn from the parable Christ told the chief priests and the elders of the people, about a father with two sons whom he asked to work in the vineyard? (cfr. 21,28-32) The first son at first said no, but later on changed his mind and went to the vineyard to work. The second said yes, but did not go.
Obviously, the immediate lesson we can derive from that parable is that what is important is to do the will of God, even if at first we refuse to do so or hesitate. In this regard, it was the first son who met the standard. And the second son did not, despite the dispatch with which he responded affirmatively.
But the greater lesson we can learn from this gospel story is that whether we identify ourselves with the first son or the second one, everyone of us always needs some conversion. We cannot deny that with regard to doing God’s will, we can at first refuse but then later on agree, or we can say, yes, but actually would not do what is told us. In both cases, some conversion is involved or needed.
We should always feel the need for conversion. The mark of true saints is precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion. Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud. They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made, and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes, faults, infidelities, etc.
It’s not that they led a miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father, but aware of their total dependence on God.
It’s their driving love for God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see many things that they need to do.
Due to this love, they also sharply knew that on their own, all they could do is evil, not good. St. Augustine said something to this effect. We are actually nothing without God. We simply would have no resistance against evil.
Our problem is that we often think that we can do good by our own selves, without the grace of God. We think that with our talents and good will alone, we can be and do good independently of God.
We easily forget the fact that all our talents and our capacity to have good will all come from God. Our problem is that we usurp the goodness and power of God, and make them simply as our own. This anomaly, done at the very fundamental level of our life, would have tremendous repercussions in all the other aspects of our life.
This is something we should try to avoid. I know it’s easy for us to fall to that predicament, and that’s precisely why we need to have continuing repentance and conversion. We should not go to bed at night without expressing some penance and reconciling ourselves with our Lord. We have to end the day always reunited with God!*