September 28, 2014
Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
"Actions speak louder than words." This old saying is one that most of us have
experienced some time or other. Numerous times when looking for volunteers to
help on various projects I was impressed with the number of people who said that
that they would be there to help, only to find myself disappointed when only a
few actually turned out for the project. Not everyone who expresses a desire to
help, sometimes very enthusiastically, can be counted on to show up. "Actions
speak louder than words," is a saying that we all understand and it sums up the
message of our Gospel.
Matthew 21: 28 - 32
In the Parable of the Two Sons It seems that Jesus is telling the chief priests
and elders that they are like the son who says he is going to do things God's
way, but then does not do what God asks him. They fail to believe the message
of John the Baptist and even when others began to listen to John and repent, the
chief priests and elders did not change their minds. The chief priests and
elders are the ones who say "yes" to whatever God asks of them. And their yes
is made with much bravado and flair, but the way they live their lives and treat
the people of Israel does not reflect their "yes." They have the reputation for
living off the backs of the people, of enforcing the strictest interpretation of
the law for others while finding loopholes for themselves. Jesus makes it clear
that the chief priests and elders are like the son who says yes, but does not
show up to do the work.
What probably angered the chief priests and elders most about what Jesus said is
that, while they were not doing God's work, the tax collectors and prostitutes
were praised because they were being moved to repentance. Even though they
might have said "no" to God and chose lifestyles and professions contrary to the
law of God, now they were coming around and saying "yes" by their actions. So
in telling this parable Jesus is saying that the tax collectors and prostitutes
are the heroes because they are actually turning their lives around to follow
Jesus, while the chief priests and elders are the villains who speak loudly of
God, but their observance of God's law cannot be seen or heard.
We can easily join in the chorus of those who look at the chief priests and
elders and criticize, if not condemn them, while at the same time singing the
praises of the tax collectors and prostitutes for the conversion that was taking
place within them. But the more meaningful response we can have to this Gospel
is to look deep within ourselves and ask the question, "Where am I in this
Parable?" Am I the son who says "yes" but then does not follow through? Or am
I the Son who says "No" and has a change of heart and does do what is asked of
him? Or maybe I am the son who is not mentioned who says "yes" and actually
follows through in what the Father asked. We are all one of these three. Which
one are you?
Take time to look at how you respond to the Lord. When it comes to fidelity in
prayer, awareness of the needs of family and friends, and attentiveness to the
cries of the poor and disenfranchised, do I say "yes" and actually follow
through with it? Which son am I most like? Do my actions speak louder than
words in the way I want them to?
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.