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Along the Way
26th Sunday Ordinary Time--Sept 29, 2002
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Todays gospel is a simple parable. Jesus describes a father, like many of us here. The father asks his sons to help him with some work, much as we might ask our children to help us rake leaves in the yardas we surely will be doing in coming weeks. The boys arent very interested in doing what their father asks of them.

I can almost imagine two boys watching TV. When the father asks them to come out and help him in the yard the first one complains that he is watching Sponge Bob Squarepants and it is a special episode that he cant miss. Hes been waiting all week to see this show and there is no way he is going to miss SpongeBobhis entire world would fall down around him if he missed Sponge Bobat least this episode! The other boy says "yeah, Im coming." He gets up and gets about five feet from the TV when Ralph does something particularly funny and down the boy goes once more lost in the undersea world of Sponge Bob.

But now a strange thing happens the first boy remembers the walk he and his father took a few days earlier and the great time they had. He remembers how his dad helped him with his homework the night before. He remembered one act of kindness after another that his father had done for him in recent weeks and he was ashamed of the way he acted. So, he got up pulled on a sweatshirt and went outside to help his father. Sponge Bob will be on again and right now his dad is more important. The other boy remains oblivious to the love his father has showered upon him over the years. He is glued to the TV.

This story is not so much about obedience as it is about our relationship with God. When we love someone they are number one in our life. We care about their needs and try to find ways to do nice things for the person we love. This is a way of showing our love for the other person. Even more, we want to do good things for the one we love. It makes us feel good.

Neither of the boys responded very well when their father asked them to help. One refused and the other said yes so his father would think nicely of him but then didnt do what he was asked. Both of them showed little real love for the father, at least at first.

Jesus confronted the religious and political leaders of his day with this story. They imagined themselves to be special servants of God and worthy of respect because of their positions and their public piety. Jesus exposes their hypocrisy, telling them that they are no different from the criminals and dregs of society they looked down upon. Jesus implies that not only are they no better than the dregs of society but that the people they think are most revolting are more likely to experience God grace than they are. After all, the others know that they are doing wrong, Such knowledge might lead them to desire Gods grace and experience repentance, just at it did with the son who refused and first and then repenting of what he did wrong, went out and did what his father asked. Those who feel they are already better than anyone else have no need of grace, at least in their own eyes.

In following Jesus what you say really isnt as important as what you do. Your actions are what show your love. That is the way it is in life. If a couple of high school students are dating and the boy always says "I love you" but is rude and crude around the girl or cares more for his buddies and partying than the girl. His actions are saying, "Who are you? The only one I care about right now is me!" Hopefully the girl will listen to his actions instead of his words and save herself a lot of heartache later.

If a youngster prefers SpongeBob Squarepants to helping his parents, he is telling his parents that a TV show is more important to him than his parents. Nice words and pretty Mothers Day cards dont mean anything if they dont reflect our actions.

If parents speak about family values but dont spend much time with their spouse and children, their actions proclaim a very different reality from their words. Or, if we claim to be dedicated Catholics but are bigoted, unfaithful, unforgiving, gossip, stretch the truth and are blind to the need of others, then our actions attest to the unimportance of our faith

We are called to work in Gods vineyard. We are called to love God and one another. We are asked to live in a way that makes our love for God obvious in all our actions. We are asked to live in a way that others will look at us and see Jesus. Some of us respond by saying "no way, Im doing things they way I want" Other respond by saying, "Yes, Lord what ever you want" but then continue to live as if Jesus never existed, loving neither God nor their neighbor.

Jesus challenges us to take a look at ourselves. Are we Christians only in our words but not in our actions? Do we love God only when it suits us and ignore God when love requires action?

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

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