Built to Last

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Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 

Matthew 7:21-29

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.’ 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 ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

 

Opening Prayer: I lift up the eyes of my heart to seek your face, Lord. I open my mouth to speak out your praise. I believe in your goodness and your interest in my life, and so I come to you today full of hope. You will enlighten me. You will guide and strengthen me. You will never abandon me. I want my life to give you glory, to shine with your wisdom and love. As I turn to you, Lord, I humbly ask you to turn once again to me and fill me and heal me with your grace. 

Encountering Christ:

  1. A Shocking Surprise: Jesus explains that on Judgment Day, when everyone’s eternal destiny is revealed, there may be some surprises. Some people who invoked him as Lord and even performed wondrous deeds in his name will hear him say: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” The key phrase is the first one: “I never knew you.” The very essence of salvation is a relationship with God. Jesus came to earth in order to reestablish the possibility of our living in friendship with God through him. God is interested in us as human beings. God wants us to live with him now and for all eternity in a dynamic communion of mutual knowledge and love. That’s what really matters. It matters even more than prophesying and driving out demons and performing miracles. We can, so Jesus seems to be telling us through this passage, so easily lose sight of what is essential and become thoroughly disoriented. We can become so enamored of our great deeds and achievements, that we cut ourselves off from simple friendship with Christ, which is the greatest thing of all. Jesus doesn’t want that to happen. And so he gives us this warning: “I never knew you…” Let us not get tangled up in understanding how someone could invoke the Lord’s name without actually living a real friendship with the Lord. Rather, let us pay close attention to our own life journey, so that no matter how much we accomplish, we never lose sight of who Jesus wants us to be: his friends and companions now and for all eternity.
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  3. The Right Kind of Success: Success in Christ’s eyes is very different from success in the world’s eyes. In a certain sense, success in Christ’s eyes is measured precisely by how we respond to failures in the world’s eyes. Both the house built on sand and the one built on rock are bound to suffer storms. Something terrible–some kind of failure or disaster–is going to strike both of them. In the face of that storm, the house built on sand will collapse, and the house built on rock will endure. If we are putting our faith in Jesus and making our day-to-day decisions in accordance with his wisdom and grace, we are building our lives on rock. And so, even when persecution comes, or rejection, or any kind of suffering, we will be ready for it. And because we are anchored in Christ’s truth and love, we will stand strong in the face of it. That, in Christ’s eyes, is success. Not vast amounts of wealth, not immense popularity, not power and pleasure—those things are secondary at best. They are not bad in themselves, but they will never fill our hearts with the stuff of lasting happiness. If we organize our lives seeking fulfillment in anything besides our relationship with Christ, eventually the storm will come and we will be sorely disappointed, maybe even for all eternity, if we don’t repent in time. And that is the only real failure we need be afraid of: “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
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  5. The Ball Is in My Court: Jesus leaves it up to us to determine our eternal destiny. He tells us clearly, unambiguously, that each one of us has a choice about how we will live our lives. We can build on sand or we can build on rock. We can decide to follow Jesus in the decisions we make on a daily basis, or we can decide not to. We should pause for a moment just to consider how awesome a gift our freedom really is. Even God himself will not force us to live life the way we are meant to live it. Instead, he gives us the capacity to choose the right path, and he does many things to try and convince us to make that choice, but he leaves us truly free to choose for ourselves. And we can’t just go through the motions. That’s what those who called Jesus “Lord, Lord” seemed to do. On the surface, they did everything to appear as if they were followers of Jesus. But they didn’t actually “do the will of [his] Father in heaven.” Wishful thinking doesn’t actually transform our lives. Making a good, though superficial, impression on others doesn’t actually transform our lives. Choosing to trust Jesus and so battling each day to think, speak, and act as he would have us is what gives God’s grace room to continue transforming our lives. Jesus wasn’t just pretending when he instructed us to pray by saying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As one Baptist minister (G. W. Truett) once famously said: “Knowing God’s will is the greatest knowledge; finding God’s will is the greatest discovery; doing God’s will is the greatest achievement.” 

 

Conversing with Christ: I want to build my life on rock, Lord. I want to know your will and embrace your will every single moment of my life. I want to be content with only your will—what you give me each moment and what you ask of me each moment. Your will is the place I encounter you, the place where your love reaches out to me, the place where I show you that I love you by trusting in you. Teach me, Lord, to follow where you lead. Teach me to recognize your voice. May you alone, O Lord, be the whole quest of my heart (cf. Psalm 119:2). 

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take some time at the end of the day to speak with Jesus about how he sees the decisions and choices I made. I will listen to his voice in my heart to learn how I can be sure to build my life on the solid rock of God’s will each day. 

For Further Reflection: Spiritual Smoothie: What Is God’s Will?  

Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.

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