Lectio: 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time
The one who wants to do the Will of the Father
should listen to the words of Jesus and put them into practice.
your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
on God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples: 'It is not anyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?" Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers! 'Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!'
a) Key for the reading:
The text proposed to us in today’s Liturgy, closes the evangelical discourse of Jesus, which was opened with the Beatitudes (Mt 5, 1-12). Jesus “seeing the crowds, went onto the mountain and, when he was seated… he taught them” (Mt 5, 1-2). After having announced and inaugurated the new time of conversion in view of the Kingdom of Heaven which is close at hand (Mt 4, 17), Jesus presents a complete program of a new style of life founded on his Person: He is the “Good News of the Kingdom” (Mt 4, 23) on which are founded the new times. In this particular text of the seventh chapter, Jesus affirms that one enters the Kingdom of Heaven consciously choosing the values of that Kingdom with decision and responsibility. This is a decision which is translated in works which can be known: the works of the “children of God” (Mt 5, 9). Here Jesus refers, not so much to external works or extraordinary manifestations, but he refers particularly, to the foundation of every life of discipleship: to “do the will of my Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 7, 21). There are, in fact, so many who prophesize in the name of Jesus, drive out the demons and work prodigies in the commitment of evangelization (Mt 7, 22). But Jesus does not recognize them since they are “workers of iniquity” (Mt 7, 23). The indignant words addressed to these are hard and terrible in so far as Jesus openly declares: “I have never known you, away from me all evil doers” (Mt 7, 23). These are phrases which remind us the of words of the Good Shepherd, in the Gospel of John: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me” (Jn 10,14). Here we see clearly how Jesus does not allow himself to be made fun of, he the Just Judge knows who belong to him and who do not! In John’s Gospel, we find the same theme, for example in reference to Judas Iscariot and of the choice of the Twelve: Jesus answered: “Did I not choose the Twelve of you? Yet, one of you is a devil!” He meant Judas, son of Simon Iscariot: since this was the man, one of the Twelve, who was to betray him. (Jn 6, 70); “I am not speaking about all of you; I know the ones I have chosen; but what Scripture says must be fulfilled: “He who shares my table takes advantage of me.” (Jn 13,18); “No, you did not choose me, I have chosen you and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name” (Jn 15, 16). This is a theme which is also common in the Old Testament. For example we find it in Hosea in relationship to the People of God who in spite of having “rejected the good”, cries out: “My God, we Israel know you!” (Ho 8,2-3). The parable of the ten virgins (Mt 12, 11-12; Lc 13, 25), of the two houses (Lk 6, 46) speak to us about this. But also other passages of the Acts and of the Letters of Paul make us notice this reality (Acts 8, 9-13; 2 Tm 3, 8-9; 1 Co 4, 20; Ph 3, 7-9) which already existed in the primitive Church: that is the presence of those who carry out their ministry in the name of Jesus, but, in fact, they are workers of iniquity, disobedient to the will of God (Hb 4, 6) and, therefore, they are foreign to the Kingdom of Heaven. From here follows Paul’s exhortation to the disciples to live: “Work willingly for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of human beings. And wholeheartedly do the will of God” (Eph 6, 6).
Jesus recognizes as his own only those who do the will of the Father (Mt 12, 50; 21, 29-31; Mk 3, 35), because he is also recognized by them (Jn 7, 17). He warns his disciples about false prophets “who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7, 15) In this text (Mt 7,22) the term “prophesized” refers to the ministry of teaching with authority, done in the name of Jesus, within the Christian community. Paul also refers to this in 1 Co 12,28 and Eph 4,11. This is one of the gifts together with exorcism and the manifestation of other wonders, which contribute to the edification of the Church facilitating the proclamation of the Good News. This is why this is a gift like all the other gifts which bears within itself great responsibility. The “workers of iniquity”, even if gifted with these gifts, cause harm to and ruin the Church (the house of God) by their hypocrisy. Perhaps this is also the sense of the parable of Jesus about the two houses being built, one on sand and the other one on rock. This is why, it is not so important to work so much but rather to build on the Word of God, putting it into practise with docility and charity, because without charity which unites us to God and to his will we are nothing and nothing which is useful (1Cor 13,1-13). “The prophecies will disappear; the gift of tongues will cease and the science will vanish” (1 Co 13,8). Only “charity will remain, will have no end” (1 Cor 13,8).
b) A few questions:
i) Read attentively the Gospel text and the key to the reading. Find in the Bible all the quotations of parallel texts. You can also find others which will help you to understand and deepen Matthew’s text.
ii) Underline that which struck you in the texts and the key for the reading.
iii) Which do you think is the principal message of Jesus in this discourse?
iv)The Gospel tells us that “when Jesus had finished these discourses, the crowds were amazed with his teaching” (Mt 7, 28). Is this also your reaction? Why?
v) The crowds noticed that Jesus “taught them as one who has authority and not like their Scribes” (Mt 7, 29). Which do you think was the intuition that the crowd had? Does this have something to do with the coherence of the life style of Jesus with his message?
vi) How can I contribute to the edification of the church?
In silence accept the words of Jesus in your heart. By practicing these words, you will end by being transformed into him.
Conclude your prayer by reciting Psalm 31 (1-3, 22, 24)
In you, Yahweh, I have taken refuge,
let me never be put to shame,
in your saving justice deliver me, rescue me,
turn your ear to me, make haste.
Be for me a rock-fastness,
a fortified citadel to save me.
You are my rock, my rampart;
true to your name, lead me and guide me!
In a state of terror I cried,
'I have been cut off from your sight!'
Yet you heard my plea for help when I cried out to you.
Be brave, take heart,
all who put your hope in Yahweh.
“Since, as we see it, a person is justified by faith and not by doing what the Law tells him to do.” (Rm 3,28).