Sunday reflection – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Actions speak more loudly than words
There’s more trouble down the farm today. In last Sunday’s Gospel it was grumbling over wages in the vineyard. This Sunday (Matt 21:28-31), it’s a father’s confrontation with a son who said he would do the job but he didn’t. Conversely, the other son stamped out in blunt refusal at first, but on second thoughts he did the job. If you are asked by God to go work on his farm you must be willing to muck in and let your hands get dirty.
Jesus originally addressed this parable to the Jewish chief priests and elders. Many of those leaders were Pharisees whose name means the Separated Ones. Their religion grew out of the fear of being contaminated by the sins of others. Self-preservation became their ideal. They offered no hope for the sinner.
But there are times when social distancing is the opposite to what is required. The harvest on the farm was ripe for picking. The mission of John the Baptist showed that there were many sinners who were ready to respond to anybody who would give them a second chance in life. John offered them water, washing, renewal, a clean sheet, and a new beginning.
Then as John promised, Jesus came with the Holy Spirit and fire. He announced good news for the poor. He reached out to the sick and the sinner, the downgraded and depressed, the marginals and the outcasts. The self-preserving Pharisees could not tolerate this mixing with sinners. As Jesus described it, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Jesus was a scandal in their eyes because he sat with sinners and, worst of all, he ate and drank with them. But he gave them hope.
Call to Action
To be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ one is called to be missionary and apostolic: to work in his fields. Pope Francis expressed his vision of the Church: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (The Joy of the Gospel, 49). In the same document he wrote: “There is always the risk that some moments of prayer can become an excuse for not offering one’s life in mission; a privatised lifestyle can lead Christians to take refuge in some false forms of religion.” This was the way of the son who said “yes” but did nothing when it came to action. A privatised religion sets out to say your prayers and save your soul but don’t get your hands dirty, don’t let your comfortable schedule be upset. Heavenly minded but no earthly good. True following of Christ is manifested more by actions than in words. Saying “Yes” to God is best shown in acts of charity. “Faith without good works is dead” (James 2:26).