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Action Speak Louder Than Words

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Scriptural Readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

My dear encountered couples:

Words can never take the place of deeds. The first son in our story spoke very politely and courteously to his father, “Yes, I will do what you say, sir. I will go and work in your vineyard.” But he didn’t do it. The second son when he answered his father was brief and blunt, “No, I will not.” But, we are told he went and did it anyhow. It was their deeds that proved what kind of sons they were. The same with how you and I live our lives.

You and I, all of us, show our love, or our lack of love for God our Father, not by what we proclaim and profess. It is by the way we live and conduct ourselves. Only by our deeds do we really prove our love for someone. Little Johnny goes to his mother and says, “I love you very much.” “Well, I wish you would show it a little more,” she answers. The old maxim always proves to be true: “Actions speak louder than words.”

Most of us here have been baptized. At that time, we, or those who spoke for us, proclaimed our faith in Christ and our rejection of the devil. Those of us who came to Mass on Easter stood up and renewed those baptismal proclamations and promises.

Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?” the presiding priest asked. And we each answered, “I do.” “Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?” “I do,” we said. “Do you reject Satan, the father of sin and prince of darkness?” “Do you believe in God, in Jesus his Son, in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?” “I do,” we all answered in unison.

Now, let us look back at our lives since we said all those “I do’s.” Have we lived up to them? Or have we acted like the first son who said, “I will,” but then didn’t? Many people were not in church on Easter. They did not make those acts of faith; they did not reject Satan and promise allegiance to Christ. I wonder if any of them have done what the second son did. I wonder if any of them have lived their lives doing the will of God better than we have.

It doesn’t take much to unsettle our consciences, does it? The fact is that none of us is perfect. No matter how often we tell God in words that we love him, we all too soon show by our actions that our love is not very strong or dependable.

I think it is fair to say that each of us who renewed our baptismal promises on Easter have sinned at least once since then. I don’t think it is being rashly judgmental of me to say that all of us sitting here have at least once since Easter cast our lot with Satan. We have not consistently, day in and day out, rejected the devil and his ways. We have not always faithfully rejected sin, the glamour of evil; we have not always refused to be mastered by sin.

Sounds a lot like that first son! “I am on my way, sir. I will do what you say.” But then never went; he did not do the work in his father’s vineyard as he had so politely and respectfully said he would.

When it comes right down to it, this parable of Jesus depicts two sons, neither of which was perfectly satisfactory. It is true that the second was better than the first, but neither of them was the ideal son. It is better to say, “NO,” but then go and obey, than to say, “YES,” and then not keep your word. But it is best to say, “Yes,” and then do what we have said “yes” to. Both of the sons in this parable hurt their father’s feelings.

I am afraid we all do the same with our Father God. We hurt him every day. We are all very far from being perfect sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. But we must not let that discourage us. We must keep trying.

One thing about God: He is deeply impressed by our efforts. But he is not the only one impressed. So is the devil. The devil is so impressed with our efforts to do right that he will stop at nothing to put a halt to our efforts. And one of his main means of doing that is by trying to discourage us. One of the devil’s main strategies to paralyze us is what we call - “DISCOURAGEMENT!

Ever feel discouraged? It is a familiar human feeling. Sooner or later it comes knocking at the doors of all of us. We must not let it in. For when we let discouragement enter our hearts, it will eat away at our hopes and dreams until we are so disheartened we will no longer put forth any effort to love God or neighbor. We will become spiritually listless; we will lose all interest in the things of God. And it will be the devil’s ways that will begin making our decisions for us.

Ever see anyone try to remove a manhole cover? Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Not always easy to do. Have to get something like a crowbar, wedge it in along the side of the cover, push down and try to pry it open just a little crack, then some more. After that you can get your fingers, then your hand under the cover and lift it completely off. That’s how the devil works at trying to discourage us. He tries to pry an opening into us, just a small crack in our armor of confidence, and then slips in a few rational reasons why we should give up trying to be such good people. If he is successful in that, he then bombards us with feelings of failure, inability, worthlessness, and finally hopelessness. Discouragement has then done its job. And we are lost.

When you feel discouraged, even the least bit, about anything at all – look to Christ, look in his eyes, he is offering you his confidence and strength. Accept it! Jesus Christ will put the weight of heaven on that cover, and discouragement will never have a chance to do its work. The crowbar will pop out and hit the old devil right in the eye.

Let us always try to say “Yes” to God our Father and then try to do what we have agreed to. But whether we say “yes” or “no,” whether we say “maybe” or “I’ll think about it,” whether we do what God asks of us or not, you can be sure of this: GOD YOUR FATHER LOVES YOU! Isn’t it fitting that you keep trying your very best to show him how much you love him?


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