Which would you prefer? A person who says yes when the outcome is no or a person who says no when the outcome is yes? The second response is more genuine, because the person who does the right thing even when it hurts is more to be admired than the person who merely gives lip service but has no intention of doing what’s right. You’ve heard the maxim, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
This saying, attributed to St. Bernard, stresses the need to have more than good intentions if we want to enter heaven. We need to mean what we say, and we need to follow through on our intentions by doing what we say. Hell, they say, is full of good intentions, but heaven is full of good works.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 21:28-32, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons. One son agreed to do his father’s will but did not do it; the other disagreed with his father, but did what he was told. The Lord praised the second son for his honesty. He did not give lip-service like the first son. He did the right thing even when it hurt.
Actions speak louder than words, and the Lord commends honest action over good intentions. "It is not the person who says 'Lord, Lord . . . who will enter the kingdom of God, but rather the person who hears the word of God and keeps it," says Jesus in Matthew 7:21.
Rhetorical slogans about our faith are not good enough. We must be willing to deliver on the promises of our faith. This has practical implications for everyone. It is not good enough to say "Yes" on your wedding day. You must say yes to the demands of love in marriage every day.
It's easy for a parent or sponsor to say yes at the baptism of a child but it takes true courage to say yes to all the things a parent or sponsor should do for the child during the years of a child’s upbringing. It is easy to say "I am a Christian," but it is another thing to live it, day in and day out, in good times and in bad.
Saying "yes" and meaning it, is what the gospel of Jesus is all about. This positive response to the demands of God’s word leads to conversion as in the case of the second son in the Gospel of St. Matthew who did the right thing even when he felt like doing the opposite. Conversion means change that makes the doing of God’s will our way of life; it means saying "yes" when "yes" means "yes."
We must be willing to say without reservation, "Yes, Lord, not my way but yours!"
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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