If you remember from last Sunday, the Gospel was about how the workers hired last got paid the same as the workers hired first. Every fiber of our being screams – it’s not fair! Well today’s readings pick up where that left off. God’s ways aren’t fair! We’ll hear some explanation in the readings about how WE actually decide what God gives us. So listen for that.
Also, in the Gospel today there are two sons – one says yes and one says no, and they both did the opposite of what they SAID. Think about why they might have answered like they did – and why they changed their minds. There’s a lesson for us to learn.
If someone gave you and me the directions for the quickest, surest route to Holiness, would we take the advice? If God told us how to be happier… if God told us how to experience the joy of His kingdom in this life and the next… would you do what He told us?
There’s a Harvard psychologist, M. Scott Peck who wrote a book familiar in the psychology circles called The Road Less Traveled. He tells the story of a particular female client who had been stuck in a deep depression for a long time.
One morning on the way to her appointment, as if to compound her misery, her car broke down. When she called to reschedule, Dr. Peck suggested that he might drive by and pick her up. On the way to work that day he was planning to stop and make a hospital visit. Would she mind sitting in the waiting area during that time?
When they actually drove up to the hospital, however, he had a better idea…
He gave her the names of two of his other patients who were hospitalized. He knew they both would enjoy a visit. Would she be willing to drop in and say hello to these two complete strangers? “Sure,” she answered.
Ninety minutes later they met in the hospital lobby.
The woman was animated – even joyful! Her depression had lifted dramatically.
Spending time with those two patients, and focusing on THEIR needs, had filled her heart with joy.
Peck was excited. “Well, now we know one way to help you through your depression.”
The woman was startled. “You don’t mean I have to do that every day, do you?”
The doctor’s answer was ‘yes’ – you should do this every day. We have finally found something that makes you feel better, why WOULDN’T you want to do it every day?
The reason this book was called The Road Less Traveled, was from an observation he had made over the years. One hundred percent of his clients wanted to feel better. But when they eventually discovered some specific pathway that might lead not just to feeling better for a while but to personal transformation, only about 10% were willing to pursue it.
Only 10% were willing to do what they KNEW would help them. Doesn’t that sound like our spiritual life? It’s pretty safe to say that 100% of us WANT to get the most joy possible out of life. 100% of us would like to experience heaven in this life and the next. But will we do what God has told us to do?
Matthew Kelly tells us in “Four signs of a Dynamic Catholic” that four actions seem to separate serious Christians from others: Prayer, Study, Action, and Generosity.
You might say, these are the directions God gave us to get to His kingdom – to experience the joy of heaven in this life and the next. We hear these things so often: Prayer, Study, Action, and Generosity – and we might even agree that we need to do them… but if we don’t make them a priority, it never gets done…never becomes a habit…. Which means we never get the benefits….we never reach our desired destination.
For example, we have Eucharistic adoration Wednesdays at SR and Fridays at SC. The people who spend an hour per week praying in the silence in front of Jesus actually look forward to that time. In some ways, many of them feel selfish for taking that time for themselves to be with Jesus. But that silence breeds peace in their lives, and the rest of us may SEE that peace, and maybe even WANT that peace… but we don’t turn that desire into action… we never commit ourselves to that 1 hour or even ½ hour per week.
We know that a daily routine of prayer builds character and forms us into disciples of Jesus – but few make it a daily habit.
Study – each of us should constantly be reading a good Catholic book – or listening to the CDs at the door. We even GAVE away many CD’s and books over the past few years – but how many actually got used? In fact, many people wouldn’t even TAKE one when we gave the away!
Action – this is where we turn prayer into action – reaching out to others to share the love of Christ. This can be service, evangelization, or simply conversation – or even just a smile. Without action, we are a tree without fruit.
Finally – did you figure out what made the two guys in the Gospel change their minds? Both did the opposite of what they SAID. I’m going on a limb here, but I’d say the first one – the one who SAID ‘no’ – was a man of prayer. I think he reflected on his response and allowed the Holy Spirit to convict him of his need to follow the will of his father. You might say the Holy Spirit is his GPS unit – when he turned the wrong way, the Spirit said ‘recalculating’ and told him to turn around.
The other guy who SAID ‘yes’ but didn’t follow through: I’m guessing he was very superficial – always saying the things he knew others wanted to hear. He probably didn’t have many friends, because it was normal for him to lie to your face. Without prayer to change his mind, he was stuck in a rut of just making himself look good to the world. He was given the directions of how to live, but chose to live his own way.
God gives each of us the directions to happiness… you could say, The Bible is our roadmap to heaven. Prayer, study, action and generosity are the highways to a joy-filled life. We can to take those roads, or go another way. If we get to the end of our road and find we’re not in heaven, don’t say God’s not fair!
He gave us the directions – but we choose our destination.