June 1: Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Deut. 11: 18,26-28; Romans 3:21-25,28; Matthew 7: 21-27
A story is told about a ship that came across very severe storms. After the sea calmed down and the ship arrived safely on the port, one of the sailors was severely punished by the captain for refusing to obey during the storm. The following day, all the newspapers condemned the captain for such a severe punishment. One retired sailor however differed with the newspapers and gave his own life experience on a ship. One day when all the crew was busy working suddenly there was a command from the captain: “all lie down.” All the sailors fell on the floor and just then a snapped wire zoomed like a snake over them. If any had disobeyed, they would all have been killed. Obedience saved their lives. Jesus demands that kind obedience. This Sunday the readings invite us to build our lives on Jesus Christ and like the sailors to be obedient to him if we want to be saved. We do this by listening to his words and putting them into practice. In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s Covenant with them. Keeping this Covenant (faithfulness or remaining close to the Lord) is a blessing, but breaking the Covenant (staying away from the Lord) is a curse. Psalm 31 is a prayer of a faithful servant in trouble: “Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.” Paul in the Letter to the Romans warns about self-righteousness; the idea that if I somehow do everything perfectly according to the law, then I am right before God. Such legalism leads to hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Paul reminds us that we cannot be saved by observing the law or by being right. No one can buy one’s way to salvation by doing something like devotions, or keeping the law or doing penance while secretly disobeying Jesus Christ. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn. 14;23). “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Gospel passage from Matthew is the last part of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). Here Jesus warns of the hypocrisy of false prophets who pretend they are with him by faith-healing and exorcism in his name, while living inauthentic lives. Jesus reminds us that entrance into the Kingdom is for those who do his Father’s will; those who keep his word. On judgment day, the morally corrupt will be rejected. Here Jesus underlines the importance of hearing (listening) and doing (living accordingly). To live the message of Christ demands the solid commitment symbolized by the analogy of building on a solid foundation. This means doing God’s will rather than merely talking about it. Jesus warns of consequences for those who merely profess his name with their lips, while not practicing what they hear. At judgment day, the Lord will tell them, “I do not know you”. Three points to sum up the message: 1) Just as the sailors in the story needed to be obedient to their captain, we too need to be faithful to Jesus by putting his words into practice as we go through the rough storms of this world; 2) Jesus must be our driving force and our solid foundation; 3) Authentic living the words of Jesus demands a solid commitment to hold on to the only rock that can save us.
©2008 John M. Mbinda