Parents can become dreadfully disheartened when they ask their children to do something and all they get is a bellowed “No”. It’s like receiving a slap in the face and can place an intolerable strain on family relationships.
In today’s parable, the first son’s “no” put him on his father’s bad side. Working in the vineyard was certainly within what was expected of him in the family. But his “no” wasn’t the end of the story. He may have impulsively refused his father’s request, but when he changed his mind, he was able to get back in line with what his father expected. It was as if he had never refused. Even better, his relationship with his father was restored. If you think about it, it’s not too different from the parable of the prodigal son: when the wayward son returned home, his father immediately ran out to take him back, before even a word was said between them. The same is true for us. “No” doesn’t have to be our final answer.
Just because we may have said no to God, doesn’t mean he has turned his back on us. We can always change our mind, we can repent, and say yes. There is always the chance for a new beginning; and we are never locked in to a descending spiral of disobedience and sin. The choice to respond to God’s love is always there. Like the prodigal son, we can always turn back to God. And all traces of our “no” can be wiped away.
This is what happens in Confession. Our “no” is turned to “yes” and God not only forgives us but forgets our sins. It’s as if we never committed them. The amazing message of today’s Gospel is that it’s never too late to start over again.