Saying “No” and then “Yes” to God
26th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 1, 2023
“A man had two sons. He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards changed his mind and went.”
In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable that will be familiar to most parents (Mt 21:28-32). Two children are given a task by a parent to perform. One child seems very cooperative; he knows exactly what to say and agrees to perform the task but in the end, does not do what the father wants. The other is rather obnoxious and stubborn; he is not an attractive character at all, absolutely refusing to do what the father requests; yet in the end, he does in fact do what was asked of him.
This parable is meant as an encouragement for us. So often we may find ourselves confronted with the will of God, first saying “no” to God (which is sin), yet later saying “Yes!” (repentance). This behavior is the human condition. There is one gift God has given us that he absolutely will never violate and that is our free will. As long as we are alive on earth, we will always have the freedom to say “no” to God. Of course, it is always in our best interest to say “yes”, but the problem is that saying “no” can sometimes bring immediate rewards, while saying “yes” may initially bring us suffering or a sacrifice of some kind. Doing God’s will always results in the best possible outcome, but it can take a while for us to realize this and the Lord usually gives us the grace of time to aid us in working out our response to him.
For example, we may come to realize that the Lord desires that we change an area of our lives that blocks the grace of God (sin). Perhaps we realize that we must not take his name in vain, or to refrain from obscenities in our speech, or to stop viewing pornography or to begin getting serious about an addiction. Our initial reaction may well be “No! I want to have the freedom to do what I want, even if it is harmful to my relationship with God, others or even myself!” Later however, we may have a change of heart, and even though our initial rejection of the Lord’s will is not pleasing to God, he is very pleased when we turn and repent, no matter how late in the game it is. With God, until the moment of our death it is never too late to repent.
Our struggles with God’s will, our efforts to do what is right, even after a long period of being separated from God, can actually serve to glorify him when we repent and do what is pleasing to him. This always results in our greatest possible happiness for us in the end.