Jesus told a parable about two brothers. When asked by his father to work in the field the first brother said no, but later relented and went. The second brother agreed to the task but changed his mind and did not go. “Which of the brothers did the will of the father?” Jesus asked. “The first one,” his listeners answered (Matthew 21:28-31). In contemporary terms the point of the story seems to be “better late than never.”
What if the second brother changes his mind yet again? What if, after thinking about what he has done, he realizes he was wrong and finally goes to the field to work? Will he not have done the father’s will then? In telling the parable Jesus is giving his listeners the opportunity to finally get it right. And more to the point, in relating the story to us as readers, Matthew’s gospel is giving us a chance to amend our own behavior. There are consequences to our actions or inaction, but Jesus parable is a call for repentance just as John the Baptist called for repentance before him.
As we wind our way through Advent we will have many chances to accept or decline the will of God. But in the anticipation and hopefulness associated with this season of the church year we will also have many chances to recognize our failures and to repent of them. Look around. In the shelters and on the street corners, in troubled homes and among the lonely and distressed there is still work to be done. Now, as much as ever, our hands and hearts are needed in the field. Now is the time to say, “I go, sir,” and to mean it and to do it.
Prayer: Lord God, help us to live out your claim on our lives, that we may serve your will in all we do, now and always. In Jesus’ name. Amen.