Actions Speak Louder Than Words (6th Sunday, Year A)
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The spoken word is an amazing thing. We hear in the beginning of John’s gospel, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This Eternal Word is actually a person, Our Lord, the second person of the Holy Trinity. God’s Word is so incredibly powerful and life-giving, that in the beginning of time, all it took was his words to create the universe, the earth, and all living creatures, including the most magnificent of all, the human person. But God’s word is not the only word that has power. Even as humans, what we say can have an incredible effect. A word of forgiveness can transform a person’s life. A word of hope can bring new meaning to someone’s existence. A word of love gives purpose to one’s living; it makes life worthwhile. Inspiring words can even motivate someone to lay down their life for a cause or another person. Our words and God’s are very, very powerful!
But more often than not, words only go so far. If we are not careful, honest, or sincere, no matter how beautiful or eloquent our words may be, they fall flat if not reinforced by our actions. There is nothing worse than someone who misuses their words for lies or empty flattery. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us what it means to love God. Jesus does not say, “if you love me, say nice things to me or recite lots of prayers.” Instead, he says simply, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This seems very simple on the surface, but anyone who has ever been in a meaningful relationship knows how difficult it can be to move from words to actions in loving another person. Talk is cheap but actions speak louder than words. Our friendship with God is not much different than our friendship with other people. What helps us to be a good friend to those around us will also apply in our friendship with God.
If loving God is tied directly to keeping his commandments, what are the commandments we need to keep? In the Mosaic law, there were many commandments; in fact there were 613 that every observant Jew was expected to know and observe. Jesus simplifies all of the Commandments into two basic laws. In order to prove our love for God we should love him above all things, with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole strength, with everything that we are. Secondly, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. All of the “rules of our Church are directed towards keeping these two commands. If we observe these two Commandments, we not only honor God but we prove that we love him. The flip side is that if we do not keep the Commandments we essentially tell God that we do not love him.
Now many people might try to argue with this point. Some will say, “how can God expect me to be perfect?” “I have every intention of loving God and being a good Christian, isn’t that good enough?” Today’s Gospel answers that objection with a resounding no! Most of us have probably heard of the saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that hell is full of people with good desires and wishes. Heaven is full of people who acted on those good intentions and made them a reality. It is not enough for us simply to want to love God or to be a good person. We actually have to carry out that desire by our actions.
So what does this look like in everyday practical terms? It means something like this: when I come to mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation, I’m telling God, I love you. When I obey and respect my parents and my teachers and those who have legitimate authority over me, I am showing God that I love him. And when I follow the church’s teaching on marriage and family planning, God knows then that I love him. But when I lie, or gossip, or disobey or pick and choose which commandments I will respect and which ones I will ignore, when I do these things, I am telling God in no uncertain language, I do not love you. That’s why sin is so serious, that’s why we want to avoid committing a sin no matter how small or insignificant it might seem. Every single sin is an attack on God and on love.
The good news is even when we tell God by our actions that we don’t love him, he still loves us. In fact, God can never stop loving us, no matter what we do to him. He is infinitely patient and merciful and ready to love us when we will accept it. That’s why the Church encourages us to go to confession on a regular basis. The sacrament of reconciliation is an opportunity to tell God we are sorry for our actions that are unloving and it is an opportunity to grow in love once again.
I want to encourage you this week to take some time and examine your actions. Is your behavior something that shows God you love him? Or does it show that you love someone or something more than God? Can people look at your example, the way you treat other people and know, this is a Christian, this is a person who keeps God’s commandments? More than likely, we all have some work to do. There are probably some things from our past that need God’s healing and mercy. Maybe there are some bad habits of laziness or wrong priorities that need to be straightened out. Whatever the case, don’t put it off, don’t leave it until the next day. God deserves your love; he deserves your best effort in keeping the two great commandments. Let us show the Lord that our love for him is much more than mere words, reinforcing it by our actions each and every day.
Categories: ARCHIVE Fr. Kevin Schroeder