Sunday, March 6, 2011

"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.' Everyone who listens
to these words of mine and acts on them will be
like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds
blew and buffeted the house. But it did not
collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And
everyone who listens to these words of mine but
does not act on them will be like a fool who
built his house on sand. The rain fell, the
floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted
the house. And it collapsed and was completely

Matt. 7:21-27

This is another difficult Gospel, perhaps because we're approaching the Lenten season and the Church wants to challenge us with some words that will be difficult to hear. There are plenty of times when we hear in the Bible that believing in Christ and proclaiming him Lord is how we will be saved. Still, elsewhere it is made clear that our actions are also important to that salvation. Here we could say that Christ goes even further, dismissing not only faith without works but also works without faith. We can work all we want, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but if we don't also cultivate a love of God and a relationship with Him then it will all be for nothing.

Christians don't have the monopoly on charitable acts, in fact even atheists are often aware of the need to give to those less fortunate. Jesus says elsewhere that those who do good for those they love are no better than pagans, that even they know how to take care of their own. Society is already well aware of the "we are all neighbors" narrative, and many in the world do good works for those in need. What we must seek is the thing that sets us apart from the rest, the thing that we can have that they don't, which is love. It is easy to help others when you feel obligated, or when you get a good feeling out of it, and indeed many in the world who would never think of worshiping God have this down to a science. The truly difficult thing is to turn "help" into service, to act not because you feel obligated or because you get something out of it but rather because you couldn't imagine any other reaction to the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ. To serve is difficult, because you can't just stop doing it when you're not "feeling" it or when you have something else you'd rather do. We are called to love all humanity, and to put the needs of others above our own. Only then can we truly act like children of our Father in Heaven, and only then will Jesus know us. Works are important, but faith is essential.