Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel reading: Matthew 7:21-27
vs.21 Jesus said to his disciples: “It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.
vs.22 When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?”
vs.23 Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you, away from me, you evil men!
vs.24 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.
vs.25 Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.
vs.26 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.
vs.27 Rain came down, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell, and what a fall it had!”
We have three commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Click on the name of the commentator required
Michel DeVerteuil: a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical theology, University of Wales, Lampitor
Jack Mc Ardle: a member of the SSCC Congregation, writer and popular retreat giver
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
The passage is in two sections, verses 21 to 23, and verses 24 to 27. Together they give us a healthy ending to the Sermon on the Mount. We have been following this sermon for the past seven Sundays, and today we have truly a good conclusion to it all. You may want to take some time to look back over the previous weeks and come to some understanding of what it has meant to you.
In verses 21 to 23, Jesus speaks first of the effects of his teachings which have serious implications for our destiny, both in this life and in the next. Entry into God’s Kingdom, both in heaven and here below, is reserved to those who make up their minds to follow what Jesus taught, and live it in many different circumstances
– in our daily lives, as we deal with ourselves,
– when we meet one another, our families and friends,
– in our public life in our society,
– in the wider world.
We must all make a conscious decision to do this. Our final destiny will be determined by the decision to follow him.
Verses 24 to 27 are directed at two kinds of people. First there aree those who listen to his words and “act on them”. They will be like sensible people who decided to build their house on something solid, like a rock. When troubles come – “rains came down, floods rose and gales blew” – the house does not fall, for it is founded on rock.
Then there are people who do not “listen to these words of mine” and “do not act on them”. They will be like a stupid people who built their house on loose foundations, “like sand”. When the troubles came, that house fell, and the writer exclaims in anguish, “and what a fall it had!”
There is a great sense of wonder at what happened. We are reminded of an earlier part of the sermon (on the Fifth Sunday) when Jesus said of those who heard his words but did not put them into practice that they will be like salt which has become tasteless and can never be made salty again. It is now “good for nothing and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by others”. This is truly the lot of those who will not put his teachings into practice.
“At the Council, the Church has been concerned not just with herself and her relationship of union with God, but with humanity as it is today.” Paul VI, Final Speech at the end of the Vatican II Council.
Lord, we thank you for this wonderful text with its many lessons for us.
We thank you that we now have something we can use to challenge the world
and to say clearly how far it has strayed from your message.
“Every effort should be made to make artists feel that they are understood by the Church in their artistic work and to encourage them while enjoying ordered freedom to enter into happier relations with the Christian communities” Vatican Document, Gaudium et Spes
Lord, we thank you that you have shown us
the importance of teaching in languages
that suit those who want something better for people.
Help us to remain true to this concern.
“The secular school explains things and creates knowledge, the religious school teaches how to contemplate things and creates wonder”. Anthony de Mello
Lord, we thank you for the greatness of all you have made.
Help us to appreciate the wonder of your creation.
Help us also to appreciate the greatness of your teaching
and to put it into practice.
“We seem to be losing the sense of who we are, of the purpose of our own enterprise, of the essential unity of our honesty, experience and culture and the lightness of our people.” President Cheddi Jagan, former president of Guyana
Lord, we thank you for those who have truly lived your message.
Teach us to be true to them, so that what we build is built on solid foundations,
and when rain comes down, floods rise and gales blow
our house can stand firm because it is built on rock.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
1. We humans are prone to two constant faults.
2. The first of these is that we get so absorbed with the immediate and the instantaneous, that we loose sight of long term goals. We confuse the imminent with the important. That this is a major problem for people can easily be seen: just look at the number of management consultants that are out there helping companies find their ‘long-term strategic aims’ or look at the number of ‘life-style consultants’ who offer to train people (for a price) ‘to prioritise’. Not confusing the issues of today with our overall goals is one of the aspects of wisdom (or as the Jerusalem Bible translates it: ‘sensible’).
3. The second fault is that we tend to become so infatuated with outward appearances that we ignore the reality of situations. The proof of this is the amount of energy and money that it spent on promoting a good ‘image’; and there is no shortage of ‘image consultants’ as a subsection of marketing consultants. How many people in the assembly have felt cheated by the reality of a product because they were attracted by a slick website? When we know that we can be so easily distracted by appearances, it is important that we have regular ‘reality checks’ just so that we are not falling into the trap of believing our own propaga11.da. This link between the inner person and the other person is at the heart of integrity. We have captured that nugget of’wisdom in the saying: ‘The habit does not make the monk.’
4. The gospel today is it call to have a reality check. To look at what is really impo.rtant in our lives: this is building on rock.
5. It is easy to have the appearances of religion and all the professional panoply of#eligion: speaking in the Lord’s name; prophesying in the:. Lord’s name; casting out demons. It is much harder to contribute to building the civilisation of justice, peace, and love.
6. One of the problems,of preaching is that there is no one in the assembly today who is not aware of more than a decade of clerical scandals, possible cover-ups, and attempts at protecting the institutions of religion given priority over helping victims. That such problems have undermined the integrity of preaching the gospel is undeniable. Therefore, the preacher must make himse,lf. the first recipient of the call of today’s gospel and make;that explicit. As the examples chosen by Jesus make clear: no”group is more prone to deceive themselves about their integrity before God than religious professionals.
7.Reality checks are nev,er easy. Making the changes that take place after such a check is also hard. But we do not engage in this process alone: the Spirit of God moves within us to lead us into the truth, strengthening us, and purifying us.
Jack Mc Ardle
And that’s the Gospel truth
In every sense of the word, today’s gospel is a solid teaching on exactly what Jesus means by being a disciple of his, and of doing as he prescribes.
It may sound strange, but religion was always been a cause of conflict and wars, right from the beginning. There is not a war anywhere in today’s world that is not a religious one. As a pupil in junior school, I used listen with shock to the horrors attributed to Cromwell, as he sought to subjugate the Irish people. What shocked me most was when I heard that he was a deeply religious man and, every night, after massacring hundreds of the Irish ‘Papists’, he would go on his knees and thank God for the privilege that was his.
I have also come across people who adhered strictly all their lives to all the external trappings of their religion and yet, when the crunch came, when the cross arrived, when death approached, the whole fabric of their religion came apart, and they were certainly on very shaky foundations.
A certain clergyman was retiring, and he had put in train a whole series of plans in advance of that occasion. One of the most important was his plan to builcla bungalow on a piece of land he had acquired, overlooking the sea. He was looking forward to retiring there with his books/and to having time to engage in some of his favourites hobbies and past-times. He was quite gifted as a do-it-yourself handyman, and he decided to do most of the work himself. Everythiryg went according to plan, until he came up against an unexpected problem. He couldn’t hang a door! No matter how he tried it, he just couldnt manage to get the correct balance of hinges, saddle, jamb, etc. One day he gave up, and decided to go for a walk. He walked a mile or two when he noticed some new houses being built just alongside the road. He wandered in, and began to look around. To his great delight, when he came to one of the houses, he noticed that a carpenter was hanging a door. He stood watch, something which made the carpenter feel uneasy, and I asked ‘Can I help you?’ The clergyman explained his predicament, and thaI he was watching to see if he could discover the secret of hanging a door properly. The carpenter thought for a, while, and then, with a grin, he replied, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll hang the doors for you, if you do something for me.’ The offer was tempting, even though he was afraid what the catch might be. He agrled to accept the offer of help, whatever the condition. The carpenter said, ‘I’ve been a member of your congregation for several years now. I sat and listened to you Sunday after Sunday, and there were many times when I wished I could speak out, and share with you what I thought. I’ll hang the doors for you on condition that you allow me do something, where you are the listener and the onlooker, and where you will be unable to make my comment or to interrupt me in any way. This will be my turn to call the shots.’ The clergyman smiled, and agreed to this unusual request.
The carpenter put him into his car and they drove off down the road. They came to a gate, through which the carpenter entered, bidding the other to follow. Just inside the gate was a site for a house. The foundations were laid many yeals ago, it seemed, but they were now covered inweeds and nettles. The carpenter pointed to the site, while he simply said, ‘Thiink about it.’ The clergyman remained silent. They drove on down the road, and stopped in front of a beautiful modern building that was completed. The building was breath-taking, with manicured lawns, expensive drapes, and magnificent bay windows, and panelled front door. The carpenter led the way, opened the front door, and ushered the clergyman into the house. He was completely taken aback when he entered, to find that the interior of the house was just a hollow shell, no floors, no walls, no ceilings. This puzzled him greatly but, as he was not allowed speak, he just listened as the carpenter said, ‘Think about it.’ Like the story of the Three Bears, there is, of course, a third house. They reached this just around the next corner. This house really looked lived in, the grass could go with a clip, the curtains weren’t hanging perfectly, and it could do with a coat of paint. The carpenter led the way, as they entered. ‘I’m home, honey’, he said, as he entered the front door. A woman appeared with a smile and a welcoming kiss, and two toddlers rushed towards him and leaped up into his arms. He produced some sweets from his pocket as he hugged them. The clergyman noticed a pair of shoes lying at the foot of the stairs, the picture in the front hall was slightly askew, and there were a few crayon marks on the wall. He was trying to take the whole scene in, when the carpenter turned to him and said, ‘Oh, sorry … think about it.’
The following Sunday the clergyman gave the best sermon of his life, as he described the three different ways in which people accept the message of Jesus. Some of them put down a foundation during their childhood and school-time, but they do nothing more with it after that. Some others do a wonderful’ snowjob’, where they are seen to be perfect and conforming on the outside while, within, there is an emptiness and a spiritual vacuum. The third group could do with a tidying-up from time to time, a visit to Confession, or an annual Mission; but, inside there is a tremendous amount of real love.
Think about it!