There’s this scene in the 2016 film, Moonlight, that comes to mind with today’s readings. Juan, a man who sells drugs in Miami and who will die in a few years, is teaching Chiron, a young boy struggling to know himself, to swim. The water is beautiful and Chiron rests in Juan’s arms. After the lesson they sit together in the sand, and Juan becomes vulnerable about his childhood, finally inviting Chiron into loving who he really is. Tender compassion between a man whose life seems to epitomize immorality and a boy inflicted with trauma: exactly what God imagines for us.
In today’s parable, a father orders his two sons to work in the vineyard. The first agrees but hangs back, rendering his response to his father a lie. The other refuses but changes his mind and goes to work. Jesus’ message seems clear: faith is not in the words we profess but the actions we take. Being a person of faith means being tender-hearted. Unreasonably tender-hearted. Tender-hearted to Chiron so he feels his dignity. Tender-hearted to Juan as he becomes fully himself in his own moment of tender-heartedness. Being a person of faith does not mean saying, “You are loved” to the hurt Chiron and damaged Juan, it means showing them they are loved so they never think to ask.
–Mr. Michael Finucane, Religion Teacher