Antonio P. Pueyo
September 25, 2005
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Reproduced with Permission

When I was teaching philosophy to college students, we would get into discussions about validating the "truth of propositions". Some propositions are self-evident such as, "a triangle is a figure with three sides". Other propositions have to be validated through the senses, such as "the water is hot". Generally we can agree on the meanings of hot or cold, although we may disagree on how hot is hot or how cold is cold. There was one international conference held in the Philippines. The lecture hall was air-conditioned. The Filipino participants were wearing sweaters and the Europeans and Americans were in their shorts and t-shirts. From time to time a Filipino would adjust the temperature to a higher level, then an American brings it down. Since the seminar was on peace-making, this situation became a case study for win-win negotiations.

Back to propositions, some are neither self-evident nor proven by the senses. One such proposition is "She is good". The difficulty here is on the term "good". What do we mean by the good? Is good referring to a particular skill? Or a moral disposition? And this is where some philosophical distinctions come in. The classical philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle will refer to the good as that which is in accordance with a standard of Goodness. The utilitarian philosophers will say, "that which is good is that which is useful to the many". The pragmatic philosophers will say the good is "that which works", another version of the utilitarian principle.

This philosophical preface leads us to the Gospel today. Jesus applies the principle of "praxis" or action as a way of judging closeness to the kingdom of God. In a way, Jesus was using the pragmatic principle. In the parable of the two sons (Mt. 21:28-31), the father asked his two sons to work in the vineyard, the elder one said "Yes" and failed to report to work. The younger son declined at first but had a change of heart and worked in the vineyard. Jesus asked "which of the two did what the father wanted?" The answer is obvious. The only test of obedience is action. Obedience to God is shown not by the depths of our feelings or by our sentiments and good plans. The bottom line is praxis. Jesus underlined his point by saying "the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you (v. 31)". This was because from among these ostracized group were those who repented and believed after hearing the message.

Action starter: What concerns around you need your loving action? Act now.

There are many instances in the gospel where the same principle of action is applied. The most famous stories are that of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30), and the Last Judgment where the criterion of judgment is, "As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me,"(Mt. 25:31-46). There were other sayings of Jesus, "Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built his house on sandy ground" (Mt. 7:26). "You can tell a tree by its fruit. None of those who cry out 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt. 7:20).

Making word and action fit is a habit to be learned. There are different kinds of people: those who say little and do little (lazy ones), those who say little and do much (the doers), those who say much and do little (the talkers) and those who do much communicating and doing (the leaders). We are defined by our actions, according to Pope John Paul II who, as a philosopher, wrote a book entitled The Acting Person. A human being is human not just because he thinks or he imagines, but because he acts. He puts into reality the products of his thought and imagination.

Loving is a human act. To love is to will one's self to act for the good of others, even to the point of sacrifice. To illustrate, when a baby cries in the middle of the night,the mother may still want to sleep. But she gets up, changes the baby's diaper, and feeds her child. She may be sleepy and not in the best of moods, but the important things is she is acting to take care of her child. The loving sentiments, the feelings of love may not be at their highest point when one is half-asleep. However, the will is over and above the feelings. If a mother waits to act only when she has the feelings and sentiments of caring, then the baby will have to wait a long time before she could be fed. What really matters is the loving deed.