Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Meriter Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin
August 19, 2001
(artwork by Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock)
Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32; Philippians 4:8-20
In name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
"Which of the sons did the will of his father?" or to rephrase the question
in modern language, "which of the sons did the right thing?"
Of course, the answer comes quickly and easily to us.
Action speaks louder than words, as the saying goes. The father must have
felt honored by the first son who quickly agreed to the paternal request...
and must have felt disappointed with the second that said he did not want to
help his father. Yet the first son did not follow up on his word, and it was
the second who had regrets then went to follow his father's request without
Jesus quickly compares the sons to faithful believers on one hand and
non-believers (e.g. Gentiles, sinners, etc.) on the other. He warns the
faithful believers that the non-believers will be in Heaven, receiving all
the blessings of God, before them. Actions do speak louder than words.
One of the implications is that some of the Gentile and other non-believers
are in fact doing the will of the Father of us all without promising they
would or could.
This reminds me of an idea given to me by a wise Russian monk many years
ago. Everyone, regardless of belief or non-belief, already knows the will
of God. We need to let Christ sort it all out later. Here we are given the
notion that unbelievers will be in heaven. This is a good reminder that
True Christians know that it is great work to focus on following Christ,
being Christian, rather than making sure everyone else is.
WE all know in our hearts the next right thing we need to do in our lives.
We may not like it, perhaps we would prefer that someone else does it, but
we know what it is. You know what that is.
Maybe it is unfinished emotional or family business. Like the first son,
maybe we promised to do something, but did not follow up. Now is the time
to repent, turn our minds to the doing the right thing. We probably do not
need to talk with anyone - we'd probably only make excuses anyway. Let us
just do it - the right thing - the will of God - the call of our hearts.
Sometimes we can be physically or emotionally overwhelmed by the work in
front of us. Perhaps, this is why we put it off. Anxiety, not busy-ness,
is the top reason for procrastination. Procrastination. I have had problems
with procrastination over the years. One time, well actually a few times, I
tried to deal with my procrastination problem. I even tried to get to a
self-help group called Procrastinator's Anonymous. Of course, I was late.
On the door there was a sign that said, "Meeting postponed."
The unique unfolding of each of our lives, the fulfillment of our purpose
and mission in this life, follows the course of our decisions. But our
decisions can become nothing more than stones diverting a stream as it goes
down the mountainside or they can be attempts to stop the water flow. Even
the largest dams do not stop the flow of water. Slow it, divert it, but not
We can choose as the second son to do the right thing. We can commit or
re-commit to the doing of God's will in our lives.
Doing the next right thing can be spontaneously given like a light bulb
going on or labored over like the reluctant teenager verbally challenging a
household chore. Regardless, we will be given (or most likely already have)
all the resources and training we need to accomplish the task at hand. If we
did not, we would not be called to act. Sometimes, it means asking for help,
admitting errors, or other seemingly unpleasant doses of humility. Let us
emulate the second son. Regardless of our reasons for balking the first
time, let us not be stubborn in our own will, but give way to the doing of
our Father's will.
Let us look at his epistle lesson to the Philippians for guidance.
4:9 "Those things which you have both learned and received and heard and
seen in me do and the God of peace shall be with you."
4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
4:19 "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in the
glory of Jesus Christ."
4:8 "Finally my brethren...."
May we learn to follow the quiet voice of Christ in our hearts, doing the
right thing, even if our words reject it at first. Lord, be a gentle and
affirming teacher as we listen.
May we become willing children in our Father's kingdom, not just with our
words, but in our actions. Lord, let our actions speak the greater truths
that can not always be spoken.