9th Sunday A Ordinary Time
Dt 11:18, 26-28, 32; Ps 31:2-4, 17, 25; Rom 3:21-25, 28; Mt 7:21-27
I always felt that this was one of the scariest verses in the whole Bible, when I would ask myself, “Will it be me or someone I love to whom Jesus will say, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me?’” I cannot imagine hearing anything worse in all of life! And I don’t think Jesus used those words to give us a sense of hopelessness. “If I did all those great things in your Name, why, in the end, do you not recognize me?”
You see, there’s got to be something deeper here. There’s got to be something we’re just missing. So let’s put on those “miner’s hardhats” again and start digging.
Jesus said, “Everyone who listens to these WORDS of mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on ROCK.” WORDS and ROCK. In our Psalm today we prayed to the Lord to be our “Rock of Safety.” So Jesus must BE this ROCK on which our “houses,” our lives, are built. And it’s His WORDS which lead us to knowing Him.
In our first reading, Moses also told the people to “take these WORDS of mine into your heart and soul, to bind them on your wrist and forehead,” so that you never forget them. And Moses added, if you obey these WORDS, these laws, your life will truly be a blessing. But if you ignore them, it will surely be a curse instead. So there’s more than just listening to and knowing the Ten Commandments of Moses and the Beatitudes of Jesus. We have to obey, and act-on, and live these WORDS.
But we still might ask, isn’t that exactly what those people were doing, through their “mighty deeds, prophesy and exorcism” – in the Name of Jesus? Ahh, yes! But they were missing one very important point. It was the “into your heart and soul” part, that Moses spoke about, that was missing.
You see, the WORD must become so fully ingrained within us that we “become” that Word. And instead of doing good deeds for the sole purpose of getting us to heaven, when our whole lives – what we do, how we think, and how we speak – become centered upon His WORD alone, it is then that Jesus will truly know us. And as we all know, that WORD is LOVE.
Of course, we always come back and rationalize with our own words, like: “I’ve got to protect myself!” and “Sure, I’ll do all those things, but what’s in it for me?” St. Paul gives us the answer in saying: “A person is not justified in their works alone, but in their faith in Jesus,” who went as far as dying to save us. So, you see, we don’t have to worry about protecting ourselves. We don’t even have to think about “what’s in it for me.” Jesus is – what’s in it for me.
Jesus made all of this much more clear, a little later in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 25:31-46), where He said, at the end of time there will be two groups of people. He called them the sheep and the goats. The sheep, the docile ones, will be the ones who lived their lives out of the love in their hearts. They fed, they cared for, they clothed and they welcomed, the poor and the outcast without ever a second thought of themselves. They were the quiet ones, the ignored, the teased and the unappreciated. They were the meek. And for their compassion, they inherited the Glory of Heaven.
The goats, on the other hand, the stubborn ones, lived their whole lives searching for Jesus. But they never found him. You see, all the people around them were never good enough to even merit a second thought, over themselves. So time and again they missed the very Jesus they so desperately sought. And instead of compassion, they judged, and overcharged, and downsized, and boasted of their mighty donations to “world causes.” And for all their coldness of heart, they gained the words – “I never knew you.” A sad story, theirs.
You see, it’s not ours to fear this verse of Matthew 7. And if it is, well that’s just another good reason for Lent. So now, as we approach our Lenten Season, let’s take our focus off the goats and the sheep and move it to the WORD. Let’s begin to immerse ourselves in that WORD – LOVE – until we and it become ONE. And upon this ROCK we will “live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, Sacramentary P34) May God bless you and keep you always, in Jesus’ Name!