Jesus begins the parable with a provocative question ‘What do you think?” According to Matthew 21, 23., the listeners of Jesus are the chief priests and the elders of the people, the same ones whom Jesus silenced (Mt 21, 24-27), and who will be plotting to arrest him (Mt 21, 45-46). After presenting a situation in a family Jesus asks the question to his hearers: Which of the two [sons] did the will of his father? The answer they give is a correct one. The priests and the elders, by answering correctly also made a judgement on themselves. The value that they saw in the first son’s attitude and behaviour was accepted theoretically, but in practice they have not lived it. Their refusal to the invitation of God that came to them through John the Baptist stands judged. Therefore Jesus compares the tax collectors and prostitutes who accepted the invitation of God through John the Baptist with the first son who initially refused and later obeyed the father; whereas the chief priests and elders did not accept it and obey even after having seen the obedience of the prostitutes and tax collectors. The conclusion and the judgement is that the leaders of the people are like the second son who initially said yes but refused to obey the father.
I preferred to write a short reflection which is intended to care-front the present Christians and not to through muck and hurt them.
The ability to recognise the invitation of God through the prophets of the time requires not degrees, number of years of training, nor just knowledge of Scripture or theology; but openness and a CONTEMPLATIVE openness to the mysterious ways of God and the challenges to conversion that God places before us. Neither priesthood, nor profession in religious life can guarantee it. In fact, the parable state that those who are despised and ignored, considered sinners and outcasts are the ones who seem to be open to the mystery of God at work in life, in the world. Try to hear Jesus telling this parable today and identify the real obedient children of the Father and try to place one by asking “where do I fit in?”