By Bishop David McGough
Ninth Sunday of the Year Dt 11:18, 26-28, 32; Ps 31; Rm 3:21-25, 28; Mt 7:21-27 ‘Let these words of mine remain in your heart and in your soul. Fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet.” Moses addressed these words to the children of Israel as they were about to begin a new life in the Promised Land. They were spoken at a turning point in the life of the nation. Their future, for good or ill, would depend on the choices made as they passed from the uncertainty of the wilderness into the blessing of God’s promise. Their life had been a communion with the God who had heard their cry, who had set them free, who had revealed himself in the Law entrusted to them. The future to which Moses called the people was to become an ever deepening communion with their God, a future in which the will of God became their heart and soul, an identity to be proudly displayed to the surrounding nations. The Law that Moses proposed to the people was a way of life, an attitude of perfect sympathy with the will of God.
Such an ideal is realised only in the choices that we make. Thus Moses did not hesitate to describe such choices as blessed or cursed. Elsewhere, he described the same choices as leading to life or death. The language deliberately emphasised the consequences of the choices made by Israel as they began a new life. Such choices would either enrich their communion with the Lord or, in turning from him, would abandon everything that had given meaning to their lives.
No less than the children of Israel, we face choices whose consequences determine our lives. The choices that are rooted in our relationship with God are blessed and lifegiving. The choices that undermine such a relationship are cursed, the death of everything that leads to life. We can make such choices only from lives lived, at their deepest level, in the presence of God. Only then does the will of God become a matter of heart and soul, a way of life joyfully embraced.
Jesus came as the fulfilment of the Law proclaimed by Moses. In him a perfect communion with the will of the Father was revealed as the way to life. Jesus therefore warned his disciples of the superficiality that so easily undermines the obedience of faith. “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.” The words of Jesus challenge the inevitable gap between the faith we profess and the lives that we live. Like those who claimed to have prophesied and worked miracles in his name, we too easily betray our faith in the conduct of our lives. The challenge of Jesus went far deeper. He calls us to lives in which, as was the case with his own life, the love of the Father is readily known and recognised. Any other life he neither knows nor recognises. “I have never known you, away from me!” Jesus encouraged his disciples with the image of the house built on rock. Christ himself is the only foundation for a life lived in communion with the Father. Willpower alone can never resist the many challenges that will assault our best intentions. When we rest in God, knowing and receiving his love, we have a sure foundation.