Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Matt 21:28-32
There was a story of a businesswoman who owned a store. She had a servant named Ambrosia. Every night this businesswoman would always check if everything is fine. One night she asked: “Ambrosia, have you added two glasses of water in the cooking oil can?” “Yes, ma’am,” was the answer. “Have you already removed two spoons of sugar?” was the question again by this businesswoman. “Have you injected the fishes with formalin?” All the answers were “Yes, ma’am”.
Then, this businesswoman said: “Ambrosia, come here upstairs. Let us pray the rosary.”
The gospel is a parable about the contrasting attitudes of two sons. The first son said ‘no’ but after he came to his senses, he did his father’s wish. The second son said ‘Yes’ but later, he did nothing.
The question is: who is better between these two sons? The one who said ‘no’ but at the end he fulfilled his father’s wish? Or the one who said ‘yes’ but later, he did nothing. May be our answer would be the one who said ‘no’ but at the end he did fulfill his father’s wish.
I will give you a situation for you to choose which is better. Who is better, a discourteous husband who does not drink or a drunkard who is very kind when sober? Who is better, a nagging wife who runs the home efficiently or a disorderly wife who is affectionate? Who is better, a popular teacher who does not stick to her lesson or the terror from whom the students learn a lot?; a church going Catholic who is a dictator at home or a fallen-away Catholic who is close to his children?; a couple married in the church that have regular quarrels or a couple that lives together without the blessing of the sacrament of marriage but is happy?; a son who uses drugs or a son who is a playboy?; a pious Christian who always pray but unbecoming in his lifestyle or a person who does not pray but very accommodating?; and a lot of more comparisons.
May be we try to make a choice but we have to admit that none of these are acceptable ways of conduct. I can say that no one is better than the others in the sense that, like for example, in the case of the two sons, the two sons both caused the father, pain, the one, at the beginning and the other one, at the end. Both could have been better sons by giving a whole-hearted “Yes” spontaneously and joyfully and by carrying out the order efficiently and not the other way around by which the ‘no’ of the first son turned into ‘yes’ and the ‘yes’ of the second one became a ‘no’. The true Christian should be better than both. What he says, he does. There should be consistency in his words and actions. What he teaches is what he acts.
It is like the story of a businessman who was ordering 500 ballpoint pens from an office equipment salesman. The latter was writing the order in his notebook, when suddenly the buyer exclaimed: “Hold on! I’m canceling the order.”
The salesman left the store wondering why the wholesaler suddenly changed his mind. “Why did you suddenly cancel that order of ballpoint pens?” asked the surprised bookkeeper. The businessman angrily answered: “Because he talked about ballpoint pens to me for half an hour, using every convincing arguments and then he wrote out my order with a pencil! His practice did not agree with his profession.”
A man’s words must be followed out by actions. No one likes a person of empty promises. We are very cautious of politicians who promise exceptional benefits before an election. “Seeing is believing” is an old adage. People will patronize a company that lives up to its advertisements. The teacher who promptly corrects and hand backs his test papers is esteemed by his students. The quiet woman who gets things done well would be far more of an inspiration to the young than a talkative one who is constantly boasting about her accomplishments. McArthur is appreciated because he kept his words: “I shall return.”
This gospel is teaching us to consider the relationship between words and deeds. We must strive to translate our noble promises into noble performances, to carry out our fine words into fine deeds. This gospel tells us that there are two very common types of people in this world. First, there are the people whose profession or words is much better than their practice. They thought that they are good because they followed all the laws. They will promise anything, make great protestations or solemn declaration of piety and fidelity. “I’m a catholic because I was baptized as a Catholic.” But their practice lags behind.
There was a book written by C. Mooney entitled To Hell On Monday. It depicts well the Christians who conform outwardly to the law, is seen regularly at Mass, offers the required contribution, belongs to parish organizations and pays the dues, functioning on Sundays in a very conspicuous way. Then on Monday, he throws religion to the devil. The law of God is put into his back pocket and he forgets all about it in his marital relations, his sense of justice to his household servants and his sense of moral decency in the commandment (thou shalt not steal), in competitive business, he forgets there is an eight (thou shalt not bears false witness against your neighbor) commandment. Where is the Christian sense in this man? Is it in the pocket?
Second, there are those whose practice is far better than their words. They claim to be tough, hard-headed materialists, not attending Sunday Masses but somehow they are found out doing kindly and generous things almost in secret as if they were ashamed of it. They profess to have no interest in the Church and in religion and yet when it comes to the bit, they live more Christian lives than many professing Christians – Robinhood style. “Action speaks louder than words.”
So are we practicing what we profess? Are we consistent with what we said?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A