Actions Speak Louder Than Words
(A Reflection on Mt 11:2-11)
By Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.
Pope Paul VI in an admonition to those teaching catechism in all over the world reminds them of this reality that people of today are willing to believe not teachers but witnesses, and if they happen to believe teachers simply because those teachers are also witnesses.
The Vietnamese people say that “Trăm nghe không bằng một thấy”, meaning “actions speak louder than words.”
In Our Lord Jesus’ time, people were waiting for the Messiah, the Savior, Who would bring salvation to Israel. However, the salvation which they wished to receive was not that promised by the Lord God through the prophets.
As Israel had for years been invaded and ruled by the Romans, people longed for freedom from slavery to the Roman Empire. In other words it was a political salvation that they wanted. Our Lord Jesus told them the truth that all forms of suffering and injustice were consequences of sin. When man committed a sin, he was separated from God’s love and care and became a slave in the hands of the Evil One. Political and economic liberation is really necessary for human persons to live with dignity and rights. Human persons are, however, not only political and economic beings, they are also and above all spiritual and religious persons. Not only do people need food, work, love, peace and happiness, they need being satisfied in their hunger for God as well. Sacred Scripture says “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Freedom of religion is, therefore, essential and vital to all people.
The message by Our Lord Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel is very clear: the healing of people from all forms of sickness is the sign of the coming of God’s kingdom. Physical freedom brought by the Messiah is the sign of spiritual freedom granted by the Son of God. Without freedom of religion political and economic freedom may end up in other forms of slavery, much more evil and destructive. Being freed from slavery to political and economic powers is always a burning desire of all peoples everywhere and every time. Being healed from suffering and sickness is an unquenchable fire in the heart of all who have been victims of all forms of evil. But as long as you do not give up your sinful life, get rid of your hatred, pride, greed, you are still imprisoned by the Evil One.
Only when you feel truly sorry for your wrongdoing and determined to go back to God and from the bottom of your heart say to Him: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned against you Who so love me”, can you deserve God’s mercy and forgiveness. Once having been forgiven your sins, you are reconciled to God, and as a result, you are definitely and absolutely freed from all forms of slavery. In short, only by denouncing your sinfulness are you worthy of true and complete freedom.
It is obviously hard to fight for political and economic freedom. Oftentimes in order to obtain freedom people have to pay so high a price: the price of their blood and their own lives.
In the fight for spiritual and religious freedom, human persons have no power to achieve their goal. It was Our Lord Jesus Christ Who did everything necessary for us to be saved. He did this with so high a cost: the cost of His own Blood and Life on the cross.
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s message of repentance is, for the above mentioned reasons, very trustworthy and convincing because not only did He announce the coming of God’s kingdom, urge people to repent of their sins, He also performed signs to ensure them that what he said would remain true for all ages. Finally, as though He sealed His message of salvation with the seal of His Blood, He went up to Jerusalem, there He suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead.
This was the reason why Our Lord Jesus Christ advised the disciples of Saint John the Baptist to go home and tell all that they not only heard but saw as well. Words sometimes speak not loud enough. Actions are much mightier to clear the way of any form of hindrance—doubt, fear, for people to freely enter the kingdom of God.