The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home by Dr. David M. Thomas
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:28-32
We start with a Catholic quiz about the saints. First question: After Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who is the most popular Catholic saint? (Answer: St. Francis of Assisi) Next question: What are the most famous words said by St. Francis? (Answer: “Preach the Gospel at all times and only when necessary, use words.”) Third question: Where did Jesus express this same idea? (Answer: In today’s gospel!)
If you were not able to answer all these questions correctly, don’t worry. Most can’t. Including the writer of this mediation until I read today’s gospel and thought about it as connected with Pope Francis.
One of the things that is said about our pope is that “his actions speak louder than his words.” Think of his early days as pope. People noticed that he was a “no frills” pope. He personally paid his bill where he stayed during the conclave that elected him. He said he wanted a simple room in the guest house that was used for papal visitors, instead of rooms in the papal palace. He drives around in a small Fiat. On Holy Thursday in his first year as pope, he washed the feet of inmates at a Roman jail, one of whom was a young Muslim woman. All his actions were rooted in gospel virtue.
In today’s gospel, we are asked by Jesus to judge what’s more important, words or deeds. He answers using a family example. One son said he would not do what his father wanted, but changed his mind and did it. The other said he would do what the father asked, but in the end, didn’t do it. Jesus sided with the first son.
Of course, our good words are important. But they can be deceptive unless they connect with good actions. Ads pushing various products and politicians wanting our vote overwhelm us with words and more words. We can grow sceptical of a “good words” approach that is not followed by good deeds.
So that’s the emphasis here. God is more interested in what we do than in what we merely say. There is work to be done. People to be helped. Bridges to be built between warring factions. So many good actions are needed. So, let’s get to work!
©David M. Thomas, PhD