Not only to say “Lord, Lord” but to do the will of the Father

Listen to mp3 file
9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: March 6, 2011
Deut 11:18, 26-28; 32; Ps 31; Rom 3:21-25, 28; Matt 7:21-27

If this were a homily that I was giving just to Kindergarteners and 1st-graders—which happens occasionally—I might ask them: “Have you ever seen anybody who, when their parents tell them to do something, say, ‘Yes, Mommy! Yes, Daddy!’—and then does something else instead!” If I asked them to raise their hands if they had seen this, lots of hands would go up. Maybe they’ve even done it themselves.

And middle-schoolers would know what it is for someone to put on different masks; to act one way here and another way over here.

And we adults know how to raise that to an art form. We even call it a “persona.” We take it for granted that people will act different ways in front of different people. And we know this is even true when it comes to faith. We know that some people will find it useful to claim loudly to be Catholic, to be a follower of Christ, in some settings, in front of some people; but to bury that away in front of others.

With public persons, we are sometimes shocked when someone consistently claims to be a follower of Christ and then it is revealed that, secretly, he or she has been living in a way quite contrary to that. And perhaps we are not shocked, but we should be, when someone practices or advocates something that is contrary to Christ’s teaching—not secretly, but quite publicly: when they claim to be a follower of Christ but they publicly contradict in word and deed the beliefs, the moral living, the social teaching that is faithfully handed on to us by his Church; and so do even more damage to this one that they say is their Lord.

Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”

Now, surely, we who are here at this Mass today are not like that. We have that faith that St. Paul speaks of: we believe in Christ, and we seek to receive what he gives to us, and to respond to what he asks. We’re sincerely trying.

And so we do believe what he teaches through his Church; well, except for that teaching; and maybe that one. And we do live according to the way that he shows us; except for that way, and that; and that and that. We do take time to speak to him in prayer and listen to his word; sometimes. Our words and deeds toward others are charitable; and we are dedicated and selfless in supporting our spouse and children; and nothing impure ever takes root in our minds; mostly. Our actions are honest; our words are truthful; we are content with what we have; and we wish only good for others… boy, I don’t think I can keep this up!

The fact is that Jesus’ words in our Gospel reading today should shake us hard. Because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t ever done miracles or cast out demons or spoken prophecies. And Jesus says that it is possible for someone to do these things in his name; and yet not do the will of his Father, and not know him, and so not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven on the last day. If it is possible to do miracles in Jesus’ name, and yet end up condemned to hell—where does that leave us?

This passage is a fitting conclusion for the Sermon on the Mount, which runs through the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7. Because his message has been uncompromising; and he is never satisfied with phony surfaces. It is not enough to avoid killing and adultery and false oaths; no, Jesus says, you must root out of your heart anger and lust; turn away from divorce and retaliation; leave behind insults and lies. Even your religious actions have to be done for good motives, not for others to see and admire you.

And he wraps up this Sermon by insisting: his words are not just to be listened to; they are to be followed. And if they are not, dire consequences will follow.

Our Lord’s words are meant to shake us: they are meant to shake us free. They are meant to lead us to joy; they are meant to fill us with peace. Our Lord knows how much we believe already; and he says, “Let me help your unbelief.” [cf. Mark 9:24] Our Lord knows how far we’ve come by faith; and he says, “Onward and upward!” Sainthood awaits. Beatitude, total blessedness, awaits. Divine union awaits.

And not only in the next life; but even blessings in this one. For, as we heard, whether we act upon his words or not, this life will bring us rain and floods and winds. The difference is that, if we not only listen to his words but also act upon them, our house will not collapse but it will stand—if we have built our house upon his rock rather than upon our own sand.

Brothers and sisters, isn’t it time to lay aside every burden, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and once again to run with endurance the race that lies before us? [Heb 12:1] Our Lord in his mercy gives us the season of Lent that begins this Wednesday: not just one day for New Year’s Resolutions but 40 days of grace to throw off those burdens and sins. 40 days to be free to give of ourselves, and receive what we need most, in prayer and acts of giving.

40 days to not only say “Lord, Lord” but to do the will of the Father. Onward and upward! Sainthood awaits. Beatitude, total blessedness, divine union awaits. Take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the Lord.


Would you like to send a note to Father Dan?

Published in: on March 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

%d bloggers like this: