Living the Gospel – September 27, 2020

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As a parent who has raised teenagers, I can relate to today’s parable of the two sons. I tell my kids to clean their rooms, and one says “OK. I’ll do it in a few minutes.” The other one mutters under his breath about something not being fair, and that I’m not his boss. He makes no move to turn off his video game and do as he’s been told.

Two hours later… Bill’s room is still a mess and he’s nowhere to be found. “Where is your brother?” I ask.

“Oh, Jerry came by and they went to the ball field,” is the answer I get. Then I notice that my second son has cleaned his room (as well as a teen-aged boy might.) Apparently, he was feeling remorseful about his behavior – or he thought I might confiscate his computer games – and decided to clean up his room after all. Either way, the result is the same. One son has not taken his promise of “later” seriously and skipped out while the other complained, but did what he needed to do. I can forgive his grumbling (up to a point) if he ends up doing what is right.

Our Heavenly Father is much the same way. He is ready to forgive us if we change our minds and admit our behavior wasn’t the right thing to do. He will even help us with the task at hand if we admit our weakness and ask. But too often we play the politician – say what the “boss” wants to hear or what we know we SHOULD be acting on, but to ourselves, we excuse our contrariness with pretending the rules don’t apply to us or our circumstance. “Artificial birth control is wrong,” says the church. But then we practice it anyway because “I have a great job and we need the money. I can’t afford to be a mother just now.” Or perhaps you have heard of some people described as “cafeteria Catholics.” “I believe in the Faith, and I see myself as a good, practicing Catholic. But I don’t believe those aspects of the faith, just these over here.” It’s like selecting one’s dinner from the variety of foods at a buffet.

Teenagers with attitude will grow up and learn that respect and rules are part of adulting. The question I need to ask myself is “Have I grown up spiritually, or am I still trying to shape God into the image I want, and write my own rules?” Which of the sons in the parable describe me better – the one who says one thing then does what he wants or the repentant one? Which one do I want to be?

Linda Crowley