Today’s readings offer encouragement to those of us who haven’t accomplished much so far. The readings tell us it is never too late to accomplish something worthwhile.
In the first reading from Chapter 18 of his prophecy, Ezekiel set himself to correct a false impression people took away from the First Commandment. When the Ten Commandments are given in Chapter 20 of Exodus, the first Commandment tells us we cannot have other gods before our God. It goes on to say that when anyone fails to keep that commandment, God will not only punish him, but he will inflict punishment on the next four generations of his family.
The Jews had a colorful way of paraphrasing that threat. This is the way they put it: , “If a father eats unripe grapes his children’s teeth will be put on edge.” At the beginning of this chapter Ezekiel quoted God as declaring he detested that saying about green grapes. Ezekiel quotes God as saying that whenever anyone turns from evil to do good he will be saved; and whenever anyone turns from a good life to embrace evil he will not be saved.
The Gospel carries the same message. The first son advertized himself as ready to do the right thing, but didn’t follow through. The second son said he wouldn’t obey, but changed his mind about it.
So, if you have not built up a reputation for doing good deeds, you needn’t let your past unwillingness to serve God keep you from doing the right thing now. And if you have always had a reputation for being the best kid in the family that reputation won’t help you if you turn away from God.