We all know the saying: “Actions speak louder than words.” There are talkers and doers and often... talkers have the clear majority, is it not so? At meetings, they come with all kinds of ideas and suggestions. They seem to have all the answers but much of what they propose will be done by others. Those others are often rather quiet during meetings and remain silent much of the time but they are the ones who carry out faithfully what has been decided.
In today’s gospel, we see two sons answering differently their father’s request. One said he would not go but “afterwards thought the better of it and went.” The other son said he would go but he did not carry out what he had promised. The two sons answered differently and they behaved differently.
In giving this example, Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders who had not listened to John the Baptist, nor to Jesus himself. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes had been open to what Jesus had to say. They had shown they were ready to believe in him and accept his message. They had shown themselves more doers of the Father’s will. This parable reminds us that promises and fine words can never take the place of actions or deeds.
Later, the apostle James when writing to the first Christians reminded them of this: “You must do what the word tells you and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves” (James 1:22).
In Jesus’ story, there is another point we need to pay attention to. It comes in these words: “The first boy thought the better of it and went.” He changed his mind. Why? We are not told but the fact is that he accepted to come back on his first decision. At times, we refuse to change our minds and our ways. It can be because we are afraid, or because we do not want others to see us as weak. At other times, it is simply because we are too lazy. Yet, there are moments when we should change our minds and take a new direction.
One of the changes required of some of us is the change from being only a talker to becoming a doer. A Christian is someone who tries to take on Christ’s ways. He told us that his food was to do his Father’s will (Jn.4:34). He repeated: “I always do what pleases him” (Jn.8:29). And at the end of his life, he could say to his Father: “I have finished the work you game me do to” (Jn.17:4). We know that he expects the same from us, his followers. On this Sunday, we can ask ourselves: “Could I really say that I always do what pleases God, my Father?” If not, am I ready to change my mind, my ways?