Talk is Cheap

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Philippians 2:1-11 or 2:1-5; Matthew 21:28-32

Baptism of Christ by Perugino

There will never be a shortage of words.  Words are plentiful because talk is cheap.  It’s easy to make a promise.  Keeping a promise is an entirely different matter, as this Sunday’s gospel makes abundantly clear.

There are over a billion people on the planet who have solemnly promised to live a life of loving service to God.  For that is what baptism and confirmation mean.  Millions renew this promise each Sunday.  That’s what saying the creed and receiving communion mean.  But what do our actions say?  Sadly, most baptized Christians have lifestyles that don’t quite match the words they profess.

Actions speak louder than words.  The tongue often lies.  But body language never lies.  It reveals our true trajectory, our real priorities.

God’s Word is more than words.  His Word is so substantial that it is a Person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  And this Word was not satisfied to say “I love you.”  Rather He leapt into action, stripped Himself of glory, assumed the form of a slave, healed the sick and washed feet.  The last and ultimate word of the Word was the Cross, the most eloquent love letter ever written, the final PS of a 33 year life of love in action (Phil 2:1-11).

We don’t need to win God’s favor through perfect deeds.  The Son did this for us because we were unable.  But we do need to admit our need for him, repent of our sins, accept what Jesus did for us, and seek the will of the Father in the power of the Spirit.

We say “sorry.”  But contrition is more than saying sorry.  It includes the determination to change one’s life with the help of God’s grace and to avoid “the near occasion of sin.”  If we say we regret falling off a cliff and then, soon after, walk right up to the edge again, our actions drown out our weak words.  If we go to confession for sexual sin yet fail to unsubscribe to Playboy magazine, we may be fooling the priest and maybe even ourselves, but we aren’t fooling God.

When in the parable of the two sons, one boy says yes to the will of His Father and fails to do it, there were probably excuses given. “I forgot.”  “I’ll get around to it later.”  “I was too busy.”  “I do more than my fair share – let my brother do it.”  God is wise to all this.  He hears the real answer being given – “No.”  The younger son shouldn’t have said no to the Father verbally.  But he had a change of heart.  And his actions revealed that change of heart.

Many can’t see how a loving God could possibly condemn anyone to hell.   I think the answer is simple.  Yes, he is a loving God who happens also to be an honest God.  And he insists that the people he has created free be honest with themselves and accept responsibility for the answer they freely choose to give to his call.  No “maybes.” No “let me think about it.” Just a simple yes or no.  Up until the very end, we have the freedom to change our answers.  But the final answers which God reads are not written in Hebrew, Greek, or Roman script, but in the characters formed by our deeds.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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