Working with the Word

Focusing the Gospel

Key words and phrases: two sons; I will not; changed his mind and went; Yes, sir; did not go; way of righteousness

To the point: In this Gospel the first son's initial answer to his father was honest (he never intended to be obedient), but he “changed his mind” and did what his father asked. By contrast, the second son's seemingly obedient “Yes, sir” in fact was dishonest—he “did not go.” Jesus condemns the chief priests and elders' behavior because of their own utter dishonesty. Challenged by the “way of righteousness” of John, the sinful tax collectors and prostitutes (like the first son) change their behavior. Trapped in their self-righteousness, the chief priests and elders (like the second son) refuse to change. Changing one's mind—choosing conversion of self—is a matter of utter honesty with self, God, and others.

Connecting the Gospel …

… to the First Reading: The First Reading emphasizes turning away from wickedness and doing good; one is judged by the final choice. This turning away is the change of mind that Jesus extolls in the gospel because it leads to the "way of righteousness."

… to experience: Change is difficult for everyone—house, job, schools, marital status, etc. Even more difficult is change of self—values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors. As difficult as this change is, it is an essential element of Christian discipleship


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson