"Yes" Doesn't Count When You Change Your Mind

    One day a man met his friend whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the friend explained to him what had happened. He often took his dog with him because he worked outdoors. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that is exactly what he did.

    Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he did not move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master's word. Later with tearful eyes, the dog's owner said, "I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it." 

    The parable in today's Gospel illustrates what true and graceful obedience is. A man with two sons tells both to go out to work in the vineyard. The first son says he will not go, but later he regrets his refusal and goes to work. He represents tax collectors and public sinners who refused to obey God's commandments, but, after listening to John the Baptist and Jesus, repented and became eligible for eternal reward. The second son says that he will go but does not. He represents the chief priests, elders, Scribes, and Pharisees. By their pride, and their refusal to obey God's call to repentance through John the Baptist and Jesus, these "so-called "religious" people excluded themselves from eternal reward. Actually both sons did not obey their father, but the one who repented is better than the other.

    Some say "yes" easily and later change their mind. A survey was distributed during a worship service one Sunday morning. Among the questions was, "Do you think there should be an evening Bible Study?" The young pastor was overwhelmed at the response. Over fifty persons indicated that there should be an evening Bible study. The elated pastor began making plans. After two days, a wise, experienced lay leader came to visit the pastor. Gently he advised the young man that he had asked the wrong question. Instead of asking, "Do you think there should be a Bible study?" the pastor should have asked, "Are you willing to attend an evening Bible study?" A second questionnaire was issued. This time the question was, "Are you willing to attend Bible study?" The result was quite different from the week before. This time only twelve persons indicated that they would be willing to attend." Which brother in the parable are we?

    Keeping promises and commitments seem hard these days. For example, parents sign faith formation registration papers promising to abide by the requirements and rules of bringing their children to church on Sundays, but the majority don't follow through. Those parents act just like the second son in the parable. This kind of contradiction has become more and more habitual. Disciplinary actions are taken on insubordinate employees and children when needed, but it is not being done in the church for those who fail to keep their commitments. Those who take truly the mission of Jesus to evangelize and serve the church are left with disappointment!

    A minister recently quit the ministry after more than 20 years of faithful, dedicated service and became a funeral director. When asked why he had changed his career, he said: "I spent 10 years trying to straighten out John and he's still an alcoholic. Then I spent three and a half years trying to straighten out Harold and Susan's marriage problems and they ended up getting a divorce. Later I tried for two years to help Bob kick his drug habit and he is still an addict. Now, at the funeral home, when I straighten them out, they stay straight! Perfect obedience!" People are not expected to be perfect, but they are expected to be faithful to the commitments they make. Commitment is commitment only when you follow through.

    It is necessary to offer a continual "yes" to the saving act of God - even when we say "no"- because God gives us many chances of conversion and repentance so that all will be saved.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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