Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:19)
Preferring quiet, I rarely listen to music around the rectory or in the car, but when I go to my family farm in Alabama, I listen to a lot of country music. It started many years ago when it was the only thing I could pick up on the radio in my beat-up 1980 Suburban. And now I listen to country because it seems to go well with riding around in the woods. Although I generally enjoy the melodies of country songs, what I particularly like are the lyrics. They’re easy to understand in country music, and they usually have some kind of good, wholesome message. I mention this because one song in particular reminds me of the Scriptural quote above from this week’s Gospel. The song is by Rodney Atkins, and it’s called “Watching You.” In the song, Rodney recounts a story where he’s driving in the car with his little boy, and he’s forced to slam on the brakes when his four year old boy uses a curse word. In the song, he asks: “son, where’d you learn to talk like that?”
I wonder how many parents have had that same experience? “Where’d you learn that word?!” It’s a natural reaction when you realize the innocence of your child has been touched by the sins of the world. In the song, the answer surprised Rodney. The little boy’s response is the title and refrain of the song: “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo; I want to be like you! And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are! We got cowboy boots and camo pants. Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we Dad? I want to do everything you do. So I’ve been watching you!”
No matter how much we may not intend to, our examples influence others. And it’s not just kids; we influence older children, friends, neighbors, work colleagues and even our elders. If someone respects us, our actions have an effect on their lives. That’s the warning that Jesus gives us in this passage from Scripture.
The good thing is that Rodney’s son also watches him at other times. In the song, he prays to be a better Dad, and then he puts his son to bed. And the lyrics continue: “Just this side of bedtime later that night, turnin’ on my son’s Scooby-doo night light, he crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees. He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands, spoke to God like he was talkin’ to a friend. And I said, ‘Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?’”
And the refrain continues: “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo; I want to be like you …”
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty