The silence of words, the voice of action.
Be politically correct. Be socially sensitive. We are becoming more skilled in providing the answers people want to hear. To get to places, to climb corporate ladders, to build our networks, we shape impressions by carefully chosen words. We identify the setting and the people present and craft our answers. “What is your opinion?” Same question posed on a boys’ night out and in a small discussion group in church may result in us sharing two completely different answers.
It may not be all about gaining mileage as it may just be that we don’t want to be left behind. If we were “the chief priests and elders of the people” in today’s passage, there was only going to be one politically correct and socially sensitive answer to Jesus. So what we say, often, may not be what we mean and what truly believe in.
“My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today”. My people go and be good for one another. We mouthed, “Certainly, sir”.
We are fed a good homily on a Sunday. We read an excellent reflection. More and more we find ourselves convinced and believing. We know how “to make our way into the kingdom of God”. We are excited and we share our answers. We look for more knowledge and find them. We even go on to preach our faith to others. We sound good as we know all the right answers.
Knowledge can make us complacent. It pleases the mind. It soothes us. It can be very satisfying. But we are in danger of living faith only in our minds. We start to feel good about ourselves and perhaps like the chief priests and the elders of the people forget that words are silent until we lend it voice through action.
St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words”. At the end of each mass we are called to “Go and proclaim the good news with the life you live”. In today’s second reading, “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interest first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus”. We live through the action of being humble by emptying ourselves of pride and self-interest assuming the condition of a slave.
The condition of being human and the realities of our earthly life cause us to assume the identities of both the first and the second son. Tiredness and busy schedules may provoke us to say, “No” and self-interest and knowing what to say help us to say “Yes”. This is who we really are in the rhythm of daily life oscillating between words and action.
In truth all of us are created good. Our default setting is that of kindness. We are created to act for the other. The challenges of the world tire us and can change us. It moves us towards becoming more frequently like the second son who said “Yes” but never put his promise into action. There is a voice in our hearts. It is the voice that tells us what is good or bad, what we must do or not do. It is the voice of our Creator consoling us in our tiredness, understanding the “No” we shout out and gently guiding us to go and be good to others again.
By now in life, we would have many times said “yes” to change our ways and to go out and work in the vineyard. Be spiritually correct. Be neighbor sensitive. Our life has to be faith in action lending a voice to all the words that will otherwise remain silent.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time