Lectio Divina: Matthew 7:21-29
1) Opening prayer
guide and protector of your people,
grant us an unfailing respect for your name,
and keep us always in your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 7:21-29
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. 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.’ “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
• Today’s Gospel presents the last part of the Sermon on the Mount: (a) it is not sufficient to talk and sing, it is necessary to live and to practice (Mt 7:21-23). (b) the community constructed on the foundation of the new law of the discourse on the mount will remain standing at the moment of the storm (Mt 7:24-27). (c) the words of Jesus are a severe judgment on the contemporary religious leaders, the scribes (Mt 7:28-29).
• The end of the Sermon on the Mount presents some opposition and a few contradictions which exist even in our time: (a) people who continually speak of God, but who do not do God’s will. They use the name of Jesus, but do not practice a relationship with the Lord in their life (Mt 7:21). (b) There are people who live in the illusion of working for the Lord, but on the day of encounter with Him, they will discover, tragically, that they have never known Him (Mt 7:22-23). The two last scenarios of the Sermon on the Mount, the house built on the rock (Mt 7:24-25) and the house built on sand (Mt 7:26-27), illustrate these contradictions. By means of these, Matthew denounces, and at the same time tries to correct, the separation between faith and life, between speaking and doing, between teaching and practicing.
• Matthew 7:21: It is not sufficient to speak, it is necessary to practice. What is important is not to speak of God in a beautiful way or to know how to explain the bible well to others, but rather to do the will of the Father, and in this way, be a revelation of His face and of His presence in the world. Jesus made the same recommendation to the woman who praised Mary, His Mother. Jesus answered: “Blessed rather are those who listen to the Word of God and put it into practice” (Lk 11:28).
• Matthew 7:22-23: The gifts should be at the service of the Kingdom and the community. There were people with extraordinary gifts, for example the gift of prophecy, of exorcism, of healing, but they used these gifts for themselves, outside the context of the community. In the Day of Judgment, they will hear a hard sentence from Jesus: “Away from Me all evil doers”. Evil is the opposite of justice. It is to do with Jesus what the doctors did with the law: to teach and not to practice (Mt 23:3). Paul will say the same thing with other words and arguments: “Though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains, if I am without love, I am nothing. Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned, if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever”. (1Cor 13:2-3).
• Matthew 7:24-27: The parable of the house built on the rock. The final conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount is to open oneself and to practice. Many people entrust their security to extraordinary gifts or to observance. But their true security does not come from prestige or from observance. It comes from God! It comes from the love of God who has loved us first (1 Jn 4:19). His love for us, manifested in Jesus, exceeds everything (Rm 8:38-39). God becomes our source of security when we seek to do His will. There He will be the rock which supports us in the moments of difficulty and storm.
• Matthew 7:28-29: To teach with authority. The Evangelist closes the Sermon on the Mount saying that the crowds admired the teaching of Jesus, “because He taught with authority, and not like the scribes”. The result from the teaching of Jesus is a critical understanding of the people in regard to the religious authority of the time. His simple and clear words resulted from His experience of God, from His life dedicated to the Father’s plan. People admired and approved the teaching of Jesus.
• Community: the house built on the rock. In the Book of Psalms, we frequently find the expression: “God is my rock and my fortress… My God, my rock, my refuge, my stronghold, my saving strength…” (Ps 18:3). He is the defense and the strength of the one who seeks justice (Ps 18:21,24). The people who trust in this God, become in turn, a rock for others. Thus, the Prophet Isaiah invites people in the exile saying: “Listen to me you who pursue saving justice, you who seek Yahweh! Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. Consider Abraham your father and Sarah who gave you birth” (Is 51:1-2). The prophet asks people not to forget the past. The people should remember that Abraham and Sarah, because of their faith in God, became rock, the beginning of the People of God. Looking toward this rock, the people should acquire courage to struggle and to escape from slavery. Matthew also exhorts the community similarly to have rock as foundation (Mt 7:24-25) and thus, they themselves can be rock to strengthen their brothers and sisters in their faith. This is the sense of the name which Jesus gave to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16: 18). This was the vocation of the first community, called to unite itself with God, the living rock, so as to become also a living rock, because they listen and put into practice the Word. (Ps 2:4-10; 2:5; Ep 2:19-22).
4) Personal questions
• How does our community seek to balance prayer and action, prayer and practice, to speak and to do, to teach and to practice? What could improve in our community, so that it will be a rock, a secure and welcoming house for all?
• To be rock for another is also to be in truth. Do I, and my community, know and understand Church teaching and the bible well enough and in truth such that I and we can be rock for others who need help in their Faith?
• There is another kind of rock. The rock in the parable of the sower. The seed (the Word) could not grow on rock. Do I read, learn and grow from the Word and from the saints that have given example before us, and from Church teaching? Am I like the rocky ground in the parable where the seed dries up or am I like a strong rock who gives stability to my brothers and sisters?
5) Concluding Prayer
Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of Your name;
Yahweh, wipe away our sins,
rescue us for the sake of Your name. (Ps 79:9)