Ordinary Time: March 6th
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Other Commemorations: Quinquagesima Sunday
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.’
The first reading is taken from Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28., 32. The book of Deuteronomy is a book which, according to Hebrew tradition, was written by Moses for the laity; the book of Leviticus having been written for the Levites; the priests. The central focus of Deuteronomy is an understanding of the Law in terms of the Covenant which the Israelites have with God as His chosen people. This book not only gives the covenant in listing the blessings and curses associated with it, it also details the successes and failures of Israel's checkered history in terms of fidelity and disregard. On the 1st Sunday in Lent (Cycle A) we hear of Jesus' temptation in the desert and how He answers these temptations from the sections of Deuteronomy which tell how Israel failed the same temptations and what the correct response was.
The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 3:21-25., 28. Romans 3:21 begins a new section of the Letter to the Romans, a section which is a discourse on salvation and extends all the way to 8:29. This new section is in contrast to Romans 1:28 which describes the history of Israel and her inability to live up to the covenant relationship she had with God: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper."
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 7:21-27. To be a Christian, to be called to follow Christ and to become an adopted son of God, and an heir to heaven, is surely a divine gift. There are millions who have not got this call, but, as it is not their fault, God can and will find other ways of bringing them to heaven. They too are heirs to heaven, because of the Incarnation Having the express call, as we have, and having learned what is expected of us, is only the beginning of our climb to heaven. We must be active, living Christians every day of our lives. We know this, not on the authority of any saint or Apostle, but on the authority of Christ himself.
Nominal Christianity will get no one to heaven, he tells us. Only those who have led their daily lives, according to the rules he laid down, will hear the welcome words on his judgment day: "come you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you." The rules he laid down were summarized by Christ in another place: "Love of God and love of neighbor, on these two commandments stand the whole law and the prophets too" (Mt. 22: 34-40).
True love of God and true Christian love of neighbor though they may sound easy, will make great and sometimes severe demands on the true Christian. The love of neighbor may be the harder of the two. We have so many reasons for loving God, for thanking and adoring him. But the neighbor, who often seems so unworthy of our charitable help, who is so often ungrateful, how difficult it is for weak nature to continue being kind and helpful to him! Yet it is by our true love of neighbor that we prove our love for God, as St. John tells us, when he says: "Anyone who says 'I love God' and hates his brother is a liar" (1 Jn. 4: 20). This is strong but true language.
Love of neighbor, and of all neighbors, does not come to us all of a sudden. There are those we naturally like, and those who somehow repel us. It is the latter we must learn to love. This education begins in the home; children will in ninety cases out of a hundred, imitate their parents when they grow up. If children see true respect and reverence for God and his laws put into practice daily in the home, they too will reverence God and his laws, when they leave the home. If they see that their parents are kind in word and deed to the neighbors who are less fortunate, they too will practice true charity when the time Comes.
There are millions of nominal Christians in our world today. The blame for this can, in very many, if not most cases, be laid at the door of their parents. What a judgment these parents will have to face! Not only will they have to admit their own personal sins but they will be held responsible for the sins of their children perhaps for several generations to come.
Parents, you have a grave obligation to provide food and clothing and an education for your children. It is your duty to see to it that they can earn a living for themselves in this life. You have a graver obligation still to prepare and educate them, by words and especially by example, so that they can earn their true living---the eternal life God intends for them, the life for which Christ lived and died, so that they might have the true life and have it more abundantly.
But doing this, you will not only be building your own spiritual house on a rock, you will also be laying a solid foundation for the spiritual lives and homes of the generations that will come after you.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.