Ez 18: 25-28; Phil 2: 1-11; Mt 21: 28-32
Ann Mary, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extra-curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old blue pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told George, and several others, that everyone seeing it there would know exactly what he was doing. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a few moments and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend or deny! He said nothing! Later that evening, George quietly parked his blue pickup in front of Ann Mary’s house …. walked home …. and left it there….all night!
There was a story of a businesswoman who owned a store. She had a servant named Monica. Every night this businesswoman would always check if everything is fine. One night she asked: “Monica, 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: “Monica, come here upstairs. Let us pray the rosary.”
Today’s gospel parable is about the contrasting attitudes of two sons; saying one thing and doing another. Asked by the father to go and work in the vineyard the first son said no but later reconsidered his decision and did the work. The second son, on the other hand, courteously said yes to the father but failed to do the work. Who actually did what his father wanted? 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 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.
This gospel is teaching us to consider the relationship between words and deeds. Our contemporary world is in need of true witnesses and not just noisemakers or orators whose theories do not reflect their actions. The Bible exhorts all Christians to translate what they hear into what they practice. “Be doers of the Word and not just mere hearers lest you deceive yourselves” (Jas 1:22). “Actions speak louder than words”. All these imply that it is not just enough to say “I am a Christian”. “By our way of life, people should be able to say: “this is a follower of Christ”. Jesus himself insists that people will be known by their fruits (Mtt 7: 15-20).
Let us ask ourselves this week: are we practicing what we profess? Are we consistent with what we said?