Readings: Deuteronomy 11:18.26-28; Romans 3:21-25.28; Matthew 7:21-27
The first reading of today tells us that there are only two ways to follow, the good or the evil, and no in-betweens. Every person has to make a choice and accept the way of life, built on truth, justice and love, and built on the inseparable link of love of God and those around us, which God in Jesus presents to us. The second reading tells us how the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament all point towards Jesus the Messiah, yet God’s justice has been given through faith in Jesus. This for us is the means of salvation given by Jesus and purchased by his Precious Blood and granting us the remission of sins. The gospel of today taken from the closing verses of the Sermon on the Mount tells us that Jesus is the true foundation of faith and if we rely on him we will be strengthened and fortified and no storm can destroy us.
Let us reflect a while on the Gospel we heard today taken from the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount gives us the ethical norms to be observed by every Christian. It gives us a practical way of living and observing the norms. A person is not to be measured simply by what he does and says however religious or “holy” he may seem to be. It is not enough, for instance, to keep saying “Lord, Lord…” That by itself will not bring a person under the kingship of God. It is not enough to preach brilliant sermons before huge crowds or work miracles or show wonders. True disciple is someone who is totally united to God in his heart, soul and mind. He is one who listens to Jesus’ words and carries them out.
What do we mean by “listening” to Jesus? First, we have to hear what Jesus is saying. We can only do that by being in touch with the Word of God which we find in the Scriptures, in the people, in the work, in our activities and above all in our own community. Secondly, we need to understand what we hear and read of the Word of God. This understanding of the word does not come without some effort. Every one must put in all effort to comprehend the word, to grasp the inner meaning. Thirdly, we need to accept fully and to assimilate into our very being the word we have come to understand. It is possible to hear well, to understand clearly, but not to accept or assimilate it. In other words make it part and parcel of our life. Fourthly, when, like Paul, we have fully assimilated as part of our own thinking what we have heard and understood, we naturally act accordingly, that is we live that word.. It is a question of seeing things in the same way as the Gospel. As Fr Tony de Mello used to say, “It is all a question of attitude.” When we see life and relationships the way the Gospel does, our behaviour is likely to follow quite naturally. It is only when all this becomes a reality in our lives that we can say we are truly disciples of Jesus and, as he says, that is the only sure foundation on which to build our lives.
Jesus was an expert in scriptures and also expert in life in all its minute details. Here he gives us the picture of two builders of houses, something that really took place in Palestinian situation. The builder had to be a practical person making proper choice of the place to build a house. In winter the rains could be torrential and the rivers could easily change direction and wash away all that had no strong base or foundation. The ground was mostly sandy and the builder had to look for a strong rocky place. Such a house well built, could withstand any storm. The house without foundation even though may look beautiful, cannot withstand any storm. It is important for us to understand this in the context of today’s Gospel. When we become Disciples of Christ and live the life he calls us to, built on strong foundation of the word of God. We do that, not on the basis of our own efforts, but in response to his coming into our lives. All we do, we do “through him, with him and in him” being united with him.
Jesus demands of his followers what each person must do. The person must have the personal knowledge and love of Jesus. Knowledge only becomes relevant when it is translated into action. A person may know his religion very well and still may not be a follower of Jesus. Knowledge must become action; theory must become practice; theology must become life. The hearing and doing must go together in life. These two words are summed up in one single word: obedience.
There was once a report in paper about a sailor being severely punished for lack of obedience. All the newspapers condemned this act except for a retired sailor. He gave his own experience in a ship. Once when all crew was busy working suddenly there was a command from the office in charge, “down.” All the sailors just fell on the floor. Just then a snapped wire zoomed like a snake over them and if any had disobeyed, they would have been killed. Obedience saved their lives. Jesus demands that obedience.
To live a Christian life only on the surface, that is, only with words and externally conforming behaviour, is like building a house on sand. Once we come under attack, we will collapse because we have no deep foundation inside. We see that happening frequently when people who have lived in an outwardly Christian environment move to a purely secular situation. They fall away very quickly. So let us be like that sensible man who builds his house on rock. The Rock is the firm foundation that is Christ, together with the vision of Christ which becomes also the light that guides our own life, a life built on truth and love. But true Christians do not ask whether something good is legal or illegal. They love God, they love Jesus, and they love their brothers and sisters and act. Their only concern is how they can serve and love them more. They want to work with Jesus and with their brothers and sisters to build the Kingdom of God. No matter how much they do, they know there is always room for doing more in life.