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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Matthew 7: 21-28
Reflection – So now we come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount and the ‘light of faith’ it sheds on our lives. Speaking personally, it has been very good for me to take this time to break down the Sermon piece by piece and meditate on it. It truly is the basic pattern of Christian ethical life that we are all called to follow, no matter what it costs us or how difficult a position it may put us into.
And that is the point of this last part of the sermon. These are not just words to read and ponder; this is a path of life to be lived. This is a choice that is to be made every day. Am I a Christian or am I not a Christian? Will I listen to the words of Jesus and put them into practice, or just listen to them and go on my (not so) merry way?
On this, the Lord very simply tells us, rests the success or failure of our life. We can profess faith in Jesus Christ, we can even seem to be doing all sorts of good works in the name of Jesus Christ, but the Lord Himself tells us here that the proof that we are his disciples is our fidelity to his will, and this will is expressed most universally and generally in this path laid out for us in Matthew 5-7.
It’s all so simple (not easy) that I’m not sure what more needs saying about it. Sometimes people can feel a bit overwhelmed at the level of difficulty of the Sermon on the Mount – how are we little nobodies with all our sins and weaknesses to essay this veritable mountain of sermonizing?
I always remember a story told by Jean Fox, the woman who succeeded Catherine de Hueck Doherty as Director General of the Madonna House women’s branch. She had lived in New York City as a public health nurse, and had undergone a deep conversion to Christ and the Catholic faith in that time. She decided to practice taking just one precept from the Sermon on the Mount and putting it into practice each day. ‘Today, I will turn the other cheek… go the extra mile… give alms in secret… let my yes be yes…’ and so forth.
She found that there was such power and grace that flowed from this practice. One line of the Sermon has enough grace from God within it, if we actually do it and not just think about doing it, to transform our lives. Such is the power of the Gospel.
So that’s it for this little series. Coming next week: I want to look at some of Pope Francis’ WYD Rio talks, including some of the ones that have generated some controversy and raised hackles here and there. See you then.