The Gospel is not only about words and actions. That would be an easy homily. The Gospel for today is not only to distinguish between the power of actions and the uselessness of words. The parable for today is about conversion. One son thought that conversion was an event. When one says “yes,” that constitutes a conversion and consequently one becomes a disciple. The other one believed that conversion was not only an event; it was a process. Every step must show that there is a change of heart. The Lord praises the second attitude for a better understanding of conversion. Conversion is not only an event, it is a process. In other words, there is no such thing as being a Christian. The more accurate claim is that we are “becoming Christians.” We cannot say that we are Christians because of one single event. Our Christianity is always a becoming and our conversion is an invitation all the time. We will only stop the process of conversion when we stop changing our inner disposition or when we stop breathing. That is the fault of the first son. The first son thought that because he gave his word, his work was done. The second son believed that not giving his word may have been bad, but there was a conversion event and he lived up to that conversion day by day.
Why do people have a change of heart? Three things happen before we have a change of heart. First, there must be a dissatisfaction with our present condition. If we are happy with our present condition, then why should we change? There is dissatisfaction, restlessness, anxiety. There is a sense of unfulfillment and of lack and incompleteness that we feel. That is not enough. That sense of dissatisfaction goes one step further and a trigger event shakes us up. Something happens in our life and then we start to realize that this dissatisfaction is not God’s will for us. After that trigger event, we make the first step. As the Chinese say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” There can be no single step unless there was a trigger event; there can be no trigger event unless there was dissatisfaction with the present condition. The son that the Lord praises in the Gospel had that sense of dissatisfaction, and the trigger was the invitation of the father. He took the action because he knew that only by making changes day by day, minute by minute, moment by moment will he find the fulfillment, the satisfaction that he had been looking for.
Now, the question I pose is this. Don’t we sometimes catch ourselves saying, “I’m happy with life” or “I’m satisfied with my job” or “I’m satisfied with my career” or “I am fulfilled, I am a good Christian”? If such thoughts ever enter our minds, and when we say “I am satisfied” or “This is good enough” or “I don’t have to ask for more,” be careful because that was not the attitude of the son whom the Lord praised in the Gospel. An element of dissatisfaction, an element of a lack of fulfillment, an element of a lack of wholeness is always healthy because it always leads us to convert, to improve and to evolve. It is very easy to say “I am converting” and “I am always getting better.” But if we are not aware that there is something more that we need in our lives, if we are not dissatisfied enough, what will trigger conversion or give us that push? What else would we do if we were satisfied with our life now? If we say that we are good Christians already, what more is there left to do? Let us allow the Lord to trouble us today. The Lord’s Gospel is meant to comfort those who are afflicted. It is also meant to afflict those who are too comfortable. Let us open our hearts and be vulnerable and allow the Lord to trigger conversion again.
Love Like Jesus