There’s a well-known saying that goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We all know what it’s like to have endless good intentions, but the good intentions are worth little if we don’t actually roll our sleeves up and get things done.
A father asks two sons to go and work in the vineyard. The first son says that he won’t but changes his mind and does. The second son says that he will but somehow doesn’t get around to it. Which son do we identify with? The first son speaks to those of us who have embraced Christ’s teaching late in life. Yet gain Jesus is telling us that those who have managed a change of heart are as important to him if not more important than those who think they’ve got everything right. The second son speaks to those of us who have lots of good intentions, but at the end of the day the evidence of discipleship amounts to little more than lip service. Originally this parable was aimed at the Pharisees who didn’t feel they needed to change how they lived. Like the Pharisees we might feel that we are upright church going people, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty that we need to address. We still live in a world where there’s plenty to put right. God’s vineyard needs workers who will say ‘yes’ to God’s plan, and more importantly, roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the job.
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Most of us struggle with those repetitive behaviours that inevitably lead to the same negative results. Like the second son, we might mean well but constantly fail to make a difference. Today’s gospel is an invitation for us to look at what holds us back and what drives us forward, only when we can really understand and address what holds us back can we get stuck into God’s work. The first son shows us that it’s never too late to change.