A life-long Catholic friend of mine recently mumbled to me, “I can’t stand all these converts to the faith. They’re always rocking the boat.” It surprised me because he is dedicated to evangelization, and yet he struggles with openness to new Catholics. It made me realize how easily I close my heart to those whom I perceive to be outsiders who become new members of the Catholic community. Almost unconsciously I reduce the world to the categories of “us” and “them.” The result is that meaningful community silently shrinks in my life. Don’t we all do that to some degree?
This week Jesus’ punchy parable about the two sons blows up that black and white world. One son said he wouldn’t get to work, and then did. The other said he would, and then he did not. “Which did the will of his father?” asks the Lord. Like so many of us, in identifying the first as the answer, the religious authorities manifest hidden hypocrisy in refusing to follow Jesus. They — like us — intuit the correct path but simply won’t do it. The tax collectors and prostitutes are indeed following Jesus and thereby getting to work in the kingdom of God. Everyone is called to do God’s will regardless of the labels we may apply to them.
This week let’s reject the convenient but damaging categories of “insiders” and “outsiders.” Instead, let’s embrace a grateful attitude that Jesus is calling fallen, weak, and broken men and women like you and me. Then we begin to see that the tax collectors and prostitutes aren’t them. They are us. And Jesus wants all of us working in his boat, no matter the rocking.
— Father John Muir