As I was boarding the airplane on my way home from a trip a couple of weeks ago, there was a slight seat mix-up. The elderly woman who was supposed to sit in the middle seat was sitting in the window seat, taking a nap, and I was sitting in the aisle. Along came the man who I presumed had the middle seat. He stopped and checked his ticket, and I stood to let him in. Rather than moving into the middle seat, however, the man proceeded to wake the sleeping woman by explaining to her that she would need to move, and that the window seat belonged to him. The elderly woman slowly began to make her way up out of her seat, but it became quite clear that she would not be able to move on her own. Changing his mind, the man told the woman not to move, that he would sit in the middle and she could stay at the window. She smiled and fell back asleep. Ashamed that I had not thought of this sooner, I told the man that I would also be happy to take the middle seat, but he told me not to worry about it and sat down. He told me, with a smile on his face, that if she needed to use the bathroom, I would be on duty. He also made a couple of other comments, but he stayed put for the rest of the flight and did not complain about his seat in the middle.
This man, my friends, was like the second son in Jesus’ parable of the two sons and the vineyard. Do you remember it, the one in Matthew 21: 28-32? There was a father who asked his two sons to go and work in his vineyard. The first son said that he would go, but did not. The second son said that he would not go, but later changed his mind and went. Jesus tells us that the second son did what his father wanted. The man who sat in the middle seat did his Father’s will. He initially acted uncharitably – he wanted to sit in the window seat, the one that was assigned to him, and was going to make the woman move. But he changed his mind. He did the Father’s will and acted charitably. I, on the other hand, initially reacted with disgust at the man’s actions – how could he make this sweet napping woman move into the middle seat? I would never do such a thing! But did I act? No, I waited until it was too late.
A priest recently reminded me that while it is important to make aspirations, or promises to Our Lord of things that we will do, we must also act on these aspirations. We must not only think of the beautiful things that God is calling us to, but also do our best to follow through with them! And then today, in Bible study, came the verses, “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and obey it,” and “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Luke 11:28; James 1:22). The first step is to listen to God’s word in our lives, but we must be careful not to get stuck there. We must also do what Our Lord is calling us to, and ask Him to help us when we have trouble. The example that comes immediately to mind is going to Confession: All week, I make many aspirations to go to Confession Saturday afternoon. Saturday comes, and because I haven’t made concrete plans to make a trip to the Church, the time passes and I have to wait yet another week to make my Confession. I sometimes hear God’s calling, but fail to do. Or I assure a friend of my prayers, but fail to make a note of her intention so that I will not forget. I have made a promise to do something good, but have not followed through.
To be sure, God’s grace covers all of these offenses, and I am given a second, and a one-hundred and second, and a one-thousand and second chance each day. But I think that maybe my Father is trying to ever-so-gently communicate something to me today, and I would be wise to listen, and to act.