Monday, 28 February 2011

9th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Deuteronomy 11:18.26-28.32; Romans 3:21-25.28; Matthew 7:21-27

The Good News of the Kingdom of God, the Catholic Faith brought to us by the Apostles and their successors, does not depend for its validity on the holiness of those who announce it.

This may seem like a painfully obvious thing to say but we all know those who have left the Church, even after many decades of discipleship, because of the perceived sins of priests or bishops or other believers.

When a believer accepts the Catholic Faith as being a revelation from God himself he is liberated from the imperfections of those who are sent to announce it. This liberation, this freedom, is the hallmark of mature Catholic Christians. Though the whole world were to betray the Gospel they would remain faithful and, quite obviously therefore, this freedom is essential to authentic spiritual growth.

Do you have this freedom? Do you have this maturity? If you do, be grateful because all too many are not so blessed.

In the beginning stages of conversion the Faith is usually, though curiously, not always, transmitted only by authentic witness. This is because we all instinctively avoid and reject the words of a hypocrite. As Pope Paul VI said in Evangelii Nuntiandi §41: Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. This is precisely why the Faith grew so vigorously after Pentecost, because of the power of the witness of the Apostles.

When word and deed are in harmony they speak convincingly to our hearts and, as today’s readings show, to the heart of God as well: 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.

When we obey God’s word, in other words, when we put it into action, we demonstrate our faith in its truth. This has to do with the essential nature of God’s word, indeed, of God himself. As Dei Verbum §2 says: God’s deeds and words have an inner unity.

To put it simply, God always does what God says. As Jesus makes clear, it is the ‘food’ of the Word of God to do the will of God (cf John 4:34). Jesus the Word is the great ‘Act’ of God and he goes on doing what he hears his Father saying.

Even when, in our way of thinking, God delays to accomplish his word we know that the delay is only apparent. This conviction, too, is part of the faith of every mature believer. When the resurrected Lord tells us that he will come again in glory we know that however long he takes - he will surely come again!

The prophet Isaiah sums it up (55:11): …the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

Revelation comes to us as word and deed having an inner unity. It seeks entrance into our heart; it wants to make its home in us. It is like the seed that falls in the farmer’s field. Its whole purpose is to bear a harvest. Some will welcome the word and say ‘Lord, Lord’ but the seed will not sprout; there will be no harvest. The word will not become deed and so, when the day comes, Jesus will say: I have never known you.

Word and deed are inseparably united in Jesus and must be so in us. We cannot go on pretending to ourselves. ‘I believe’ is the easiest thing in the world to say but are we bearing the fruit?

How can a Catholic say ‘I believe’ when:
  • he slanders his neighbour?
  • steals from others?
  • lives unchastely?
Revelation is realised by words and deeds, otherwise we are building our house on sand and can expect it to come tumbling down.

Modern prophecy today would have us believe that many sent to announce the Good News of the Kingdom are not living according to the word they preach. This may be so, but the true Christian will persevere. He will say, ‘If the Gospel is not to progress through their witness - let it at least progress through mine’.

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