- Deuteronomy 11: 18, 26-28. Bind these words of God at your wrist and your forehead. There is a blessing for obeying them, a curse for disobeying them.
- Romans 3: 221-25, 28. The justice of God works through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
- Matthew 7:21-27. Those who do the will of my Father in heaven enter the Kingdom of God. The one who hears my words and puts them into practice is the wise person who built a house on rock.
Thoughts for your Consideration:
This week’s lectionary readings remind us of the great theological debate between Catholics and Protestants with regards to justification. Are we justified by our good works as the book of Deuteronomy alludes to in the first reading or by grace alone as Paul would seem to infer in the second reading. The great Christian division that we know as the Protestant reformation comes from this disagreement with Catholics opting more for good works while Protestants lean more heavily on grace.
The Gospel reading weaves both positions together in acclaiming that in fact both are absolutely necessary for salvation to truly take effect. In the first half of the Gospel passage Jesus attacks both groups that lean to heavily on either position. In verse 21 Jesus tells the people that focus on being justified only by the grace of believing in him that they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they also DO the will of God the Father. In verses 22-23 Jesus also criticizes the people who claim to do great works and mighty deeds because they did these actions without ever really knowing or understanding who God is. The reminder of the Gospel reading tells us that both elements are absolutely essential.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on Rock.”
Our faith in Christ and his message of salvation will inevitably drive us to action. The Gospel does not invite us to have a passive and uninvolved relationship with God. The Gospel is a call to an active relationship with God where in the words of our Catholic liturgy we now “share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Our actions are truly good if they embody the core values of love, mercy and forgiveness that are three essential qualities of God’s relationship with us. If the spirit of our actions are not guided by these values then we cannot assume that they are good since they exist outside of the Will of God.
So it is that our faith in God and Christ calls us to serve the great pursuit of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation but only within the Holy framework of the Divine Will. Our active relationship with Christ will move us to continue his most holy mission here on earth. Our actions to bring about justice and right relationship must be done within a spirit of prayer, humility and simple living. Our actions cannot violate the most fundamental belief that we have in respecting and acknowledging the dignity that every human person shares through God regardless of their own relationship with us or with God.
Through grace, a community of faith, and prayer we are given the basic blueprint that ought to guide our actions in pursuing the social vision which Jesus expresses in the Gospel. The blueprint is not always clear to us and that is why St. James in his epistle implores us to pray for wisdom and clarity so that our actions can always be guided by the Divine Will which alone will bring the quality of goodness to our own works. But our faith will call us to action.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,