Free with the freedom of love
Fr. Fernando Torres, CMF
After a few Sundays in which the readings emphasized the mercy of God, His welcoming and forgiving nature, and asked us to offer the same to others, the readings for this Sunday make us think about our responsibility. Jesus presents to us the well-known parable of the two sons: the one who says he will not go but then turns around and goes, and the one who says he will go but then doesn’t.
This story makes us think of a famous Spanish proverb: “Love is action, not just good words.” Some people may mistakenly think that the goodness, mercy, and love of God can justify their any wrong doing. If God is so good, they think to themselves, it doesn’t matter whether we behave well or poorly; it doesn’t matter whether we work in the vineyard or we neglect it.
Those who think this way have not yet left a legalistic mind-set. Those who live under the law are obliged to keep it. The police and the judges make sure that the laws are fulfilled. And those who do not respect the law will be punished for it. But as soon as the guard looks the other way, those who live under the law feel free. They think they can do whatever they want. They try to break every known law and do everything that is forbidden. They don’t think much about what they are doing. The important thing is to beat the system, to deceive the guard. Any consideration about right or wrong at this point is totally irrelevant. And sometimes they even do things that might harm themselves.
Jesus invites us to take a step forward. We, Christians, are not under the law any more but under love. God is not a watchman ensuring we keep the law but a father who encourages and impels us to take control of our own lives. What we must do we will do out of our own free will and not because someone else is dictating it. It is in the context of God’s love that one’s freedom and responsibility gain their meaning. There is no one to measure and count our failures in order to punish us. But, there is someone, God, who, with the most unimaginable love, encourages us to grow and mature as human beings.
It is in this context that we can understand the final words of the gospel. It has been said that publicans and prostitutes will precede us into the reign of God. And that is because they have been converted. They have understood God’s love, welcomed it, and responded generously to God’s call. They have begun to live according to the new justice of the reign. And the reign of God is where the most important thing, as Saint Paul says, is: “to have the feelings of a life in Christ Jesus.”
- Am I sometimes tempted to play tricks on God and to go around what God wants?
- Have I learned to live according to the law of God? Do I teach this to my children?
- Do I try to assume my responsibilities and fulfill my duties even if no one is watching and controlling me?