By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
LEST you get scandalized, it was Christ himself who said so. Let us cite the exact quotation: ‘“Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” (Mt 21,31)
Of course, the context was the precious lesson Christ wanted to highlight as to what would comprise fulfilling God’s will. He mentioned about two brothers. The first was asked to work in the vineyard, and said no, but later on, changed his mind and went to work. The second said yes, but actually did not go.
The precious lesson Christ wanted to impart is that what really matters is doing and not simply saying to do God’s will, even if at the beginning one declines to do God’s will. An important part of this lesson is the need for repentance and conversion in our life.
So the prostitutes referred to in this particular episode are those who repented and who actually did what Christ wanted them to do. They did not enter as prostitutes, but as sinners who have repented.
A significant lesson we can also gather from this particular story, and one that should serve as a constant warning to all of us, is that we have to be most careful when we think we are already good enough because of certain good things we have or have done, but still have failed to be very faithful to God’s will.
This is the lesson embedded in that saying that “the good is the enemy of the best,” that is the very germ of that most insidious spiritual illness called spiritual complacency and lukewarmness. That’s when we think we are good enough. There’s no need to be better.
We have to understand that conversion is a continuing need for all of us. We can never say that we are good enough and that we do not need further conversions. We should not forget that we are all sinners even in the best condition of our earthly life.
For this to happen, we need to be humble, which can be the result of the keen awareness of our sinfulness. It’s when we think we are sinless or with little and negligible sin that we fail to realize the need for conversion.
We should never allow whatever good we have done to lull us to think that we are good enough and that we don’t need another conversion.
I refer more to people who have been doing good all these years, but somehow are stuck at a certain point in their spiritual life. Doing good for them has become a kind of set routine that is turning to be more mechanical than spiritual, leaving an impressive shell but slowly being deprived of substance, desensitizing them from the urge for another conversion.
The mark of true saints is precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion. Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud. They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made, and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes, faults, infidelities, etc.
It’s not that they led a miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father, but aware of their total dependence on God.
It’s their driving love for God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see more things that they need to do.
It’s this love for God and souls that would make them feel that they have to go further than what so far they have accomplished. This love has no limits. It does not have the word ‘enough’ in its vocabulary. It always urges them to do more to be more and better.
That is why it is often given as a spiritual advice that one forgets himself completely and just thinks of God and the others. Not only that, but also that one’s true growth and development toward human maturity and Christian perfection is measured to the extent that one thinks of God and the others and does things for them.
It might be good to replicate in oneself a true act of contrition that is involved in a conversion of a prostitute.