“A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” —Matthew 21:28–32
Most people know the parable of the prodigal son from Luke’s Gospel. Matthew uses another story of two brothers to make a similar point. It doesn’t have the elaborate details of Luke’s story, but sometimes that keeps us from being distracted from the central message. I often find myself identifying with the actions of the younger son, to the point that I sometimes now tell people I’m working with that my tendency is to say no to something and then later come around to a yes response.
I seem to need that time and space to consider what’s being asked of me. And I believe that over time I will learn to temper that first response so that I can be more willing to reach out and say yes more quickly. Because there’s one more group of people that Jesus doesn’t mention in his parable: those who say yes and follow through on their commitment. We all know these people in our lives, and we’re grateful for their presence because they keep things moving and they’re actively working to build up the kingdom.
These are the people Pope Francis refers to as “the saints next door.” Gratitude teaches us how to come more quickly to a yes answer. It helps us live more easily in the present moment. Blessed Solanus Casey is quoted as saying, “We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives.” This is good advice to those of who tend to live either in the past or the future. We need to notice what God is doing in and through us right here, right now.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Trust that you’re going in the right direction and say yes to God’s plan. Reflect on these words of St. Paul: “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:6–7).
A SIMPLE GIFT
If you don’t already have a gratitude journal, now might be the time to begin one. It doesn’t need to be fancy. A plain spiral notebook will do, or even a sheet of paper. Many people do this before bed in the evening but you will settle on the time that works best for you. Writing these things down keeps them from being forgotten. If you’re having a bad day, you can revisit your lists.