Walking Our Talk

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXVI-A, 01 October 2017
Ezekiel 18:25-28//Philippians 2:1-11//Matthew 21:28-32

“A person who is more on words than on deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”

That quotation is from a program host I was listening to one lazy Sunday afternoon a very long time ago in the old Kiss-FM radio. I remembered it the other day while praying over today’s Sunday Gospel when Jesus narrated the parable of a man who ordered his two sons to work in their farm: the elder refused but later changed his mind to obey his father while the younger one said yes but did not go. Very clearly we have here a case of “walking our talk” or harmonizing our doing with our saying, a characteristic of St. Matthew’s gospel stories we have been hearing proclaimed for almost a year now. Today until the next two Sundays in the parables by Jesus, St. Matthew would be insisting on this imperative of putting into practice our faith in Christ because “not everyone who calls out to him ‘Lord, Lord’ shall be saved.”

Last week through the parable of the landowner, we were all sent to the Lord’s vineyard to work in holiness and today in the parable of the two sons, we are reminded that our work continues. It never stops and we cannot simply rest on our laurels of good works and achievements in the past. We are only as good as our last deed for no one of us can claim any entitlement or privilege with God who calls us to be constantly converted in His ways. That is why He never stops in going out to call workers to His vineyard in last week’s parable. And today, we find Him being so “cool” like a modern dad who says nothing to whatever way His children responded to His instructions because it is an invitation. God is not insistent, even desperate that He has to wax His offers with many enticements because it is a free invitation wherein He is willing to wait patiently for our final answers of whether obeying Him or not. He loves us so much that he does not force Himself upon us, unlike us in the way we love others.

Too often, we find God so strange in His ways. Like Jim Carrey in “Bruce Almighty”, we want God to “force” people to do the right things; but God, played by Morgan Freeman in that movie explained to Bruce that He can’t do that because of His gift of freewill. This is what God is telling us in the first reading where He tells Prophet Ezekiel the need for us to examine our very selves before complaining God’s strange ways of justice and mercy. God knows everything and He is not indifferent to the good or evil we have done. But to ask Him to be like us by immediately rewarding or punishing our deeds would actually be a disaster! “Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.”(Ez.18:25-27)

We can never brag to God whatever good deeds we have done; holiness is a process we shall continue to go through even after death in purgatory. That holiness is not ours to solely possess but share in God in heaven; hence, the need to be constantly renewed in His love and mercy which we celebrate in every Mass. God is patient and merciful but we must also be responsible with the gifts and invitations to salvation that He sends us daily. In the gospel, after the chief priests and the elders of the people have correctly answered Jesus that it was the first son who obeyed the father’s will, He solemnly told them, Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (Mt. 21:31-32) Recall that this part of today’s parable echoes the work of St. John the Baptist in Jordan who chastised the Pharisees and Sadducees for refusing to be converted like the publicans and prostitutes, feeling entitled being the children of Abraham. St. John harshly criticized them by calling them You brood of vipers! Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax is lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mt.3:7-10)

This parable is also meant for us today, we who always feel so deserving of heaven simply because we are Christians, always feeling better and holier than the rest, exuding with senses of exclusivity with God like the chief priests and elders of the time of Jesus and John. What a shame on us! We have to imitate the elder son who at first refused to obey his father but later realized his sin that eventually he went to work in the field. It is the very attitude St. Paul is calling on us to have:“Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”(Phil.2:5-8) Here we find the surest pathway to holiness in God is to go down like Jesus by being truly human, accepting and owning our sinfulness and weaknesses. It is a daily invitation of self-emptying and dying; it is in going down like Jesus when we are raised up to salvation in Christ: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every name… that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2: 9,11)

Today is the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. May her little way of being a child of God help us to be like the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord who humbled Himself to be like us because of love above all. Be blessed!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan