I remember my first confession when I was in the 2nd grade, and I went to confession for the first time. I remember confessing that I was mean to a student, and that was about all I remember. However, I wasn’t good about confession after that; I went through my elementary school years and middle school years without going to confession. Finally, I gained up the courage to go to confession in my sophomore year in high school. I was at a conference called Steubenville South, and something in me moved me to go to confession. To make a long story short, the first effort I had to go to confession fell short because the line was too long, but I could go to confession after the conference for the day was over. My youth minister challenged me to find the first priest I could after the conference was over. The first priest that I found was a bishop. I remember him giving me some good advice, but most importantly, he encouraged me not to wait so many years between going to confession. He wasn’t mad at me; he didn’t judge me for waiting so long he was merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.
We just heard about two sons who were asked to go work in the vineyard. The first one said no, I will not go and do it, and the second one said yes, I will do it. However, each didn’t live up to his word. The first, despite saying no, went out to work in the vineyard while the second didn’t. Jesus asked who did the father’s will, and the one who said no but went out to do the work of the father instead was the one who did it.
This was a challenge to the religious rulers of the time. In a sense, they are like the son who said yes, I would go out and do your will but didn’t say it. While the one who at first said no then went to do the father’s will is more like prostitutes and tax collectors. We again hear Jesus criticize and challenge the Pharisees and scribes. While externally, they may be giving lip service to God and following what God commanded on the inside, they are not doing as much. However, the ones who do the will of God are the ones who, for a time, didn’t live out God’s will didn’t follow his commandments but have repented and come to Jesus.
I believe it teaches us an essential lesson in our lives of faith. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, wether we have followed God up to this point or if we have lived a sinful lifestyle and not followed God’s commandments. God calls us to follow him today. Even if we have lived that sinful lifestyle and not followed God, it is never too late. We can always turn back to him and receive his mercy and forgiveness. At the same time, just because we have followed him and done his will up to this point in our lives doesn’t leave us off the hook.
But I hope we can take one thing from this passage and this Gospel. It is never too late, or it has never been too long for us to go to confession. I must admit that even to this day, I’m still scared to go to confession, and it is a struggle at times to call up a priest and go to confession. It’s normal and natural to feel some anxiety and fear about going to confession. But what I have experienced every time in the confessional is a priest who is patient, merciful, and shows God’s mercy to me.
When I went to confession for the second time in high school, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I must admit it was challenging to say I hadn’t been to confession in years. However, the priest I went to confession with was merciful and helped me make a good confession. I hope you realize that the same is true for all of us now. We can help you make a good confession, and it is not Fr. Al and myself you are speaking to; instead, it is God working through us to give you mercy. It is never too late to go to confession; it has never been too long since you have last been to confession. So I encourage all of us, especially if we haven’t been to confession in a while, to find a priest and go to confession. We have confession here before every daily Mass, and on Sundays. You can always call the church office as well!