Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent
There is an English phrase or expression that we can easily associate or link with today’s gospel message: “Walk the talk.” Meaning: Back up your talk with action.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of two sons who say one thing and do another – they do not “walk the talk.” He likens the tax-collectors and prostitutes to the son who first said no but later did what the father wanted. And he likens the Pharisees and scribes to the son who enthusiastically said yes but did not go. One group has no fine words but they have good deeds; the other has fine words but no corresponding good deeds. They represent two kinds of people and the different ways they try to relate to God and obey his will.
It is important to point out that the gospel story does not picture the first son nor the second as someone to be emulated. The two sons in the parable are not the type that will bring much happiness and joy to their father. Of course, the one who in the end obeyed was certainly better than the other. We can say, he is the better of two bad sons. However, we must emphasize that both the initial defiance of the first son and the instant willingness without follow through of the second son are deficient. Both show weakness, a lack of love, and imprecision of purpose.
What is given to us as an example to follow is neither the first son nor the second son, but the Only Son of God, Jesus Christ. Combine the quick “Yes” of the second son with the ultimate commitment of the first, and we see a snapshot of Jesus. He always sought the will of the Father, looked to God for the power to obey, and faithfully accomplished God’s will. Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will is what we must imitate.
The parable tells us that there are two very common classes of people in this world. First, there are people whose promises are much better than their practice. Second, there are people whose practice is far better than their promises. While the second class are certainly to be preferred to the first, neither is anything like perfect. The really good person is the one in whom professed belief and practice meet and match.
May our Advent preparation bring us the grace to imitate Jesus – who always sought his Father’s will, looked to God for the power to obey, and faithfully accomplished God’s will.