Actions speak louder than words MATTHEW 21:28–32
By Ottrisha Carter
In today’s gospel, Jesus paints a very clear picture of the way our actions speak louder than our words. We are challenged to honestly examine what we preach with what we do.
It’s so easy to get caught up in saying holy things while doing things that are not pleasing to God. “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 Jn 3:18).
We can all agree that the first son in the parable was obedient to the father’s will even though he was not willing at first. On the other hand, the second son agreed but refused to fulfil his father’s wishes.
The moral of the parable is that God in His mercy always gives us the opportunity to repent and return to Him. In other words, it’s never too late to give your life to the Lord.
The first son represents the group of sinners who were classified as the worst which included prostitutes and tax collectors. Although they lived lives that were displeasing to God, they opened their hearts to God’s mercy and forgiveness when the time came for them to experience conversion. According to Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, “May we not give up especially on human lives and may we not give up on every single sinner. There is hope for transformation.”
On the other hand, the second son represents those who saw themselves as self-righteous which included the chief priests and elders who were there with Jesus. They felt that they were very pious people who had their lives in perfect order. However, their actions contradicted their teaching.
“For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own [righteousness], they did not submit to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3).
The main difference between the sinners and the self-righteous was the ability of the sinners to recognise their sinful states. They acknowledged how their actions and decisions offended God and they turned to God to rescue them.
The self-righteous failed to admit that they needed God’s unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness. “If we say, we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).
Let’s reflect on our own personal lives. Do we fall into the category of sinners who acknowledge our need for God, or do we see ourselves as self-righteous?
If we’re completely honest with ourselves, we can all say that we’re in need of God’s forgiveness, healing, and unconditional love. None of us is perfect; we’ve all made mistakes, hurt others, separated ourselves from God at times, made people gods in our lives and failed to practise the holy things that we preach.
However, we all have access to seeking out God’s mercy in our lives. All we need to do is open our hearts to God and give Him a chance to rescue us. “If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 Jn 1:9).
Once we reorder our passions, hobbies and all those things we love, and place God first and at the centre of our lives, we would be able to experience conversion and transformation.
Like the prostitutes and tax collectors, there is also hope for each one of us. God does not desire that we live in regret or keep reliving our past, but He desires that each one of us experiences life in Him.
St Augustine said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
As we continue our individual journeys, let’s open our hearts to God as we attempt to work on the areas in our lives that we need to change.
We have the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes to help us pattern our lives after Jesus. Jesus reminds us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”
The gospel reflections for September were by Ottrisha Carter, a writer and parishioner of St Martin de Porres parish, Coryal.