9th Sun [A] 2008

Fr. Charles Irvin

Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32; Romans 3:21-25, 28; Matthew 7:21-27

When it comes to unpacking the meaning of a scripture passage it’s always a good idea to put the passage in context, to see what other passages precede it and follow it. This being so, we need to see that today’s Gospel account is a part of the teachings Jesus gave in His famous Sermon on the Mount, teachings that included the Beatitudes and other familar passages. It was there that St. Matthew reports Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. It was there He taught us about how God cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and how much more our Heavenly Father cares for us. The Golden Rule was also among those teachings on the Mount..

Immediately before today’s passage Jesus told His disciples: “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves.” He went on to tell us: “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 in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”

Recently our newspapers and television news programs have given us reports of people who have presented themselves as God’s prophets while duping and then abusing the women and young girls who where their followers. The world around us is filled with the voices of those who claim to speak for God and then in God’s name do monstrous things to human beings.

“Beware of false prophets,” Jesus said, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

When we stand with Jesus we stand on solid ground, we stand on rock. We know this because He proved who He was by His miracles, by raising people from the dead, and above all by rising from the dead Himself. Jesus proved who He was and where He came from. He came from His Father in heaven to speak His Father’s words, to give us God’s love, and to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.

This is something that, for us, is wonderful. We live in an unstable world (to say the least!) We are surrounded by a chorus of voices that would lead is down many other paths, many of them being paths that lead us into self-destructive behaviors that bring with them disease, misery, and even death.

Allow me now to point out something in today’s gospel passage that can be easily overlooked and missed. It’s where Jesus said “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’” Well, what day? What day is our Blessed Lord talking about? What day could it be other than the great Judgment Day at the end of time?

Christ is telling us that He will be the Judge. Christ is telling us that we will one day find ourselves standing in front of Him face to face answering to Him for what we have said and done or what we have not said and done. Christ is claiming divinity for Himself; He’s telling us that on Judgment Day He will be exercising the prerogatives of God!

Bible passages cannot be read quickly. It’s so easy to gloss over their words and phrases. Today’s gospel passage is a good example of that. In addition we should also be looking for interconnectivity among the passages. Today’s gospel account is a good example for both of these points. It is directly connected with today’s first reading taken from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. Moses told the people, “Take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them at your wrist as a sign, and let them be a pendant on your forehead. I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known.”

Now in what other scripture passage do we find Jesus speaking of rock? Of course we all know. The word “rock” takes us immediately to Jesus’ words to St. Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Even though our Church is a Church of sinners and the lives of some of its clergy have been infected with this world’s sinful ways, the abiding and stable presence of God’s Spirit is found within it. In spite of human failure the Church has the stability of God’s presence within it.

Our world is unstable and our lives are anything but stable. But troubled times have always been a major part of human history as well as part of our individual lives. To whom do we turn, or to what do we turn, when we face instability and turbulence in our lives? False prophets abound. Promised hopes fail to materialize. Many of us find out, often times too late, that we’ve built our lives on sand, listened to the wrong advice, or followed faithless leaders.

Listening to God’s voice, listening to the words of God that come to us from faith-full people, people who live good and Godly lives, is not something that is merely “nice.” It is essential. Failing to heed God’s Wisdom and ignoring God’s presence is an invitation to disaster, failure, and misery in our lives no matter how vainly we attempt to cover it all up with tinsel, glitter, garages filled with clutter, or lives filled with empty noise.

Our hearts were made for God’s love. We need, truly need, to hear His word for us and to experience His presence in our souls. We need to seek and know the mind of God and the love of God. If we do, He will know who we are and we will dwell in His presence in heaven forever.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”