The road to heaven paved actions, not just empty words
Do you ever recall a time in your life when you spontaneously said “no” to someone in authority? A parent? A teacher? A boss? Perhaps you didn’t say the word out loud but rather screamed it in your heart and mind.
We all know what it’s like when a child rebels like that, no matter whether it be a child or teen.
Pick up your toys. No! Take out the garbage. NO! Go to bed. No, no, no, no!
Or, there’s the sneakier version. Go do your homework. Sure mom, I’ll go to my room and do it right now. (Translation: Yeah, right. I’m going to my room to play video games.)
Sometimes there’s never a good reason for saying ‘no,’ but rather it’s a knee-jerk reaction born out of stubbornness. Frequently we backtrack and comply, as many children will often do. “Okay, mom, I’ll do it.”
But we all remember times when we said we would do something when our real intent was “No way, no how!”
This weekend’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew (8:25-28) reminds me of both kinds of rebellious behavior.
A father has two sons and he wants them to go work his vineyard. The first one emphatically says “No!” We’re not sure why this doesn’t warrant a smack up the side of the head but the father apparently turns to his next son.
“I also want you to go work in the vineyard today.”
You can almost visualize the boy smirking at his brother standing in the background as he replies. “Sure dad, I’ll do it for you.”
But here’s thing, this second son has no intention of following through. The sun is warm; the sky is blue. His buddies are waiting and there are more important things to do this day. His brother, on the other hand feels bad about his hasty reply. He trots on down to the field and does what has been asked of him.
At first glance, we might think the son who said yes is the good son, demonstrating obedience to his father, while the son who initially refused is the bad one. But the young man who automatically said yes, is not the one who ultimately did what the father asked, is he?
This parable seems to be a no-brainer but yet it packs a punch in terms of a reality check.
Obviously, Jesus wants us to relate the father in the story to God. The recalcitrant children are you and me.
When do you think God is most pleased? When we make a show of saying yes to his will; yes to the mission of being a Christian but yet have no intention or are too lazy, too set in our comfort zones to follow through with what is required of us? Or does God wait patiently when we impulsively say no to God’s will – say no to all the work that needs to be done in this world today – and then smiles lovingly when, with a clearer head and open heart we proclaim, “Yes God, thy will be done.”
Jesus did this. He prayed in the garden. Every fiber of his being longed to say “no” to the difficulties that laid ahead of him. Yet, in his heart, he knew there was only one answer. He said “yes” to God’s will.
Maybe it’s time to reflect upon which son we are most like?
Do we pay lip service to God with our phony assertions, bolstered only by our lack of intention? Or do we recognize the need for conversion, roll up our sleeves and get to work? Which actions do you think leads us further up that path to God’s Kingdom?