A well-known cardinal of the church died and went to heaven. He arrived at the very same time as a rather scruffy-looking New Jersey cab driver. They were both assigned their heavenly lodgings: The cardinal got a third-floor walk-up flat on the outskirts of heaven, while the cabby got a magnificent mansion within a stone's throw of God's own throne. The cardinal was extremely upset! He complained to St. Peter: "I devoted my entire life to God, and this is what I get : a walk-up flat in the boondocks, while this cabby, who never went to church (and by the way can hardly speak English!) gets a mansion! This isn't fair!" St. Peter listened patiently and then explained, " Our policy here in heaven, your eminence, is to reward results. So let's talk about your results. What happened when you preached your Sunday sermons in your fine cathedral?" The cardinal reluctantly admitted that most parishioners in the congregation soon fell asleep. "Exactly," said St. Peter. "Now on the other hand, when customers rode in this man's taxi, they not only stayed awake. They prayed!"
We've each received a precious and unique gift from God : the gift of oneself; a gift for which there are no duplicates, no carbon copies! Then God says to us, "Will you take what I have given you and make it grow? Will you make it whole and complete so it becomes what it was meant to be?" Just like the two brothers in today's Gospel, we have a choice. We can say yes or no to God's invitation. If we say yes, what does that yes mean? Is it born of conviction? Or is it the yes of the cocktail party goer who nonchalantly declares, "Oh yes, we really should do lunch sometime!"
Sometimes the yes we give will be taken at face value. If we want to learn new skills, we focus and concentrate on the task at hand as if nothing else matters : consider the intensity and extreme dedication of contestants on Dancing With the Stars! The same is true when we plan our financial futures, build our homes or pursue professional advancements. We spare no efforts to achieve these goals. Our yes is genuine. It activates our minds, it uplifts our imaginations, it motivates our behavior. Yet if we ask what we value most in life, it's not likely that the list would include owning the biggest home, the fastest car, the most glamorous wardrobe, the fattest wallet. Hopefully, the list of most valued goals would include: I want to be an honest person, a faithful friend, a loving spouse, a good parent, a person at peace with God, someone making the world a better place. These are the core issues of human life! These are the goals that should elicit a heartfelt yes from each of us.
To answer yes and really mean it is to begin to become what God intends us to be. But our yes needs to be a strong conviction that leads to purposeful action. If we find ourselves seriously under-invested in these core issues, today's Gospel offers both a comfort and a challenge. The comfort? Any no we say to God (like the no uttered by one son in today's Gospel) can become a yes so long as we have a breath and pulse. The challenge? Every yes we say to God must produce results : something the poor cardinal never considered as he put his congregation to sleep Sunday after Sunday. So when God asks: "Will you take what I give you and make it grow, make it whole and complete so you become what you are meant to be," let's answer with a resounding yes and make it happen! We should never be satisfied with who we are today. God wants us to grow in wisdom and grace. That takes time. It takes a lifetime! We do this not to earn a "mansion" in heaven as the late cardinal desired. We do this simply to respond affirmatively in word and deed to God's invitation to become what we are meant to be: loving human beings.