One of the interesting things in the Gospels is that Jesus does so much of His teaching through story-telling. He invites us to use our imagination and follow Him into the world of His story.
In the parables, He invites us to enter a world of dinner parties, sheep-folds, vineyards, threatening journeys, welcoming households … a world where there are rich merchants, mugged travellers, callous, unjust judges, awkward neighbours, good employers, broken families. In all of these stories, Jesus reminds us that we achieve our happiness and salvation in and through the things of daily living.
In today’s Gospel Jesus confronts the chief priests and elders with a parable about two sons. One son said he would help his father then did nothing at all. The other son said “No” at first, but then came back later to do what his father wanted.
He criticises them for being “yes-men” whose promises don’t match their actions. They follow the letter of the Law but refuse to trust John the Baptist, even when they see how he changed the lives of the tax collectors and prostitutes.
The son, who at first said “No”, but later helped his father, is held out to us as the one who did what his father wanted. The story doesn’t tell us why he changed his mind. We’re simply left with the message that it’s never, ever, too late for you and me to return to God!