The image of the two sons in today’s gospel is a clear portrayal of various kinds of people in their answers to God’s requests, whatever those requests may be. But it is also a depiction of different moments in the lives of individual persons, because from time to time we change our openness – or lack of it – toward God.
The dichotomy between our words and our actions is a problem that affects each of us, not only personally, but socially as well. The discouragement of many in relation to others’ actions that contradict their words is frequent in our society and in our Church.
The gospel passage today presents two options: first a commitment without action and, second, an initial refusal that is followed by action. While the latter is recommended, a third option is in actuality the perfect one: a son or daughter who consents to his or her Father’s wishes and acts accordingly.
Today’s message is not a request to follow the second son, but an invitation to consider how we respond to God. What we say not only indicates our disposition, but can also help others, or not. It all depends upon our response to the call to follow the Lord. No one can overestimate the power of the witness or example given by our voices. This is how we learn from others, but also we need to act in accordance with our words. This is called “moral truth,” the concordance between our words and our actions.
What follows is an invitation to consider that our words and our decisions could be incorrect, and that there is nothing wrong in changing. We cannot be afraid to change if we in conscience believe that our original decision was wrong. That is the lesson of the second son.
But we seek to imitate neither of them; the One we follow is indeed the very Son who is telling the parable, Jesus in whom words and deeds are one.
Ending this reflection on words and deeds, I would like to share with you part of the bishop’s instruction to deacons during their ordination. As he hands them the Book of the Gospels, he says to each: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
So should it be for each of us.