The Big Talker and the Grumbler
September 28, 2014
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matt 21:28-32

Scripture scholars and theologians, in order to dig deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation (God’s Eternal Word made flesh in Jesus)…and for that matter, non-believers hoping to cast a shadow of doubt on what we hold to be true, have looked to various passages in the Gospel to argue that Jesus had siblings. Whether or not Mary gave birth to other children, in this Sunday’s Gospel, we certainly see that Jesus had an understanding of the dynamics of family life. The parable of the man with two children, polar opposites from one another, has to ring true with anyone who has the joy of being a parent. For that matter, anyone who has supervisory responsibilities over others runs across “big talkers” who accomplish little and “grumblers” who, in the end, come through.

There is a lot to unpack in this simple parable. But if we stick with the image of a parent dealing at the same time with a “big talker” and a “grumbler,” we are likely to come away with a deeper understanding of what God is like and how God works.

Parents usually know what’s going on. They know that the “big talker” is all words and no actions, contributing nothing to the good of the household. They also know that the “grumbler” will get the job done. Good and loving parents recognize the strengths and weaknesses in their respective children and try hard to forgive their weaknesses, even as they hope to show their child a better way. Good and loving parents also have effective filters which enable them to ignore a certain amount of grumbling, confident that the end result will be satisfactory. As a result, human parents are often accused of being unfair, particularly by the “grumbler.” The fact is, they probably are. Parental justice is usually tempered by love and mercy. When mercy trumps justice, someone usually walks away feeling cheated. Now, if this is how human parents operate, consider how God’s infinite love and mercy make Divine justice all that much more difficult for us to understand and accept.

The surface message of Jesus’s parable seems to be that true disciples get the work done without grumbling, regardless of what the next guy is saying, but not doing.

All this leads me to wonder whether there is some sibling rivalry going on within each of us? Could a “big talker” be sharing a room with a “grumbler’ in most of our minds and hearts? If that’s the case, it might be worth a moment to take this lesson a step further and read and reflect on Matt 7:16, 20-21 where we read: “By their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father.”

2 Corinthians 9:7 might also be helpful in improving ourselves, as we try to bring this Gospel to life: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”