9th Sun [A] 2011
Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32; Romans 3:21-25, 28; Matthew 7:21-27
When it comes to understanding the meaning of any scripture passage it’s always a good idea to put that passage in context, to see who it fits with other passages that 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 familiar 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.’
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 those who were 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, even blowing up and killing innocent people in the name of God.
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 His own rising from the dead. 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 find ourselves to be 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. The only voice that is steady and reliable is the voice of Jesus Christ.
Allow me 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 wenot prophesy in your name?’ Well, what day? What day is our Blessed Lord talking about? That day is none other than the day we die and stand before God. It is likewise 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 while answering to Him for what we have said and done as well as what we have not said and not done. Christ is claiming divinity for Himself; He’s telling us that on Judgment Day He will be exercising the prerogatives of God! The judgment of our lives, whether we have led good lives or bad lives, will be His judgment, not ours. We so easily fool and excuse ourselves and so I repeat: The judgment of our lives, whether we have led good lives or bad lives, will be His judgment, not ours.
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. Also 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.
In today’s Gospel account we heard Jesus speak of build our lives on solid rock. 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, even horrible 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, the history of our Church, and as well a part of our individual lives. False prophets abound. Promised hopes have 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. To whom do we turn, or to what do we turn, when we face such instability and turbulence in our lives?
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 no matter how vainly we attempt to cover it all up with tinsel, glitter, and in 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, particularly in the world in which we presently find ourselves. We need to seek and know the mind of God and the love of God. If we do, He will recognize us on Judgment day and we will dwell in His presence in heaven forever.
Thank God for the season of Lent. May we all use the days of this Lent to see the things that God wants us to see, hear the things He wants us to hear, and reform the way we live because we have really listened to His voice.
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.”