Grace to you!
The Gospel of Matthew 7:21-23 documents one of the Lord's scariest warmings to believers. The Lord Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21).
If anyone has doubts as to the limits of faith-alone (sola fide) claims, this very word of Jesus settles it. Making a profession in Christ is another way of saying faith in Christ. One may profess in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but this, the Lord Jesus says, isn't enough.
For us not to make light what the Lord meant, he doubles down with a sterner emphasis. "On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers" (Mt 7:22-23).
This statement has a lot of implications. To be sure, doing God's will begins with faith, believing in the one he sent—Christ (Jn 6:29). It deepens to keeping his commandment (Jn 14:15), the real proof of the faith, and much more, love. It is love which endures (1 Cor 13:7), the greatest, even over faith and hope (1 Cor 13:13).
In other words, it is faith in charity. Faith has to be matched with action. The Letter of James was spot-on when it writes: "So faith by itself if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (Jas 2:17-18).
It can't get any clearer than the above.
Secondly, the Lord's warning is a clear message to many who are gifted to do "mighty" works in God's name. Often, we get carried away by our so-called successes in the ministry. We begin to ignore our personal spiritual life and the call to holiness. We ignore sound spiritual and moral life basking in the euphoria: "After all, God is doing his work despite me."
The scandals that destroy the innocence of many churches and cause bad public image for the Body of Christ, the Church, are often due to the neglect of the commitment to holiness of life. Firm resolve and commitments to the call to holiness must precede and nurture the use of our gifts. Ignore this, and we become dulled in conscience and neglect the need to practice what we preach.
Yes, God blesses his people with healings, miracles, growth of church membership and finances, massive infrastructure, and thousands of followers on social media. But these do not equate the life of holiness. Holiness trumps them all. God blesses his people not because of us but in spite of us. In doing God's work, may we not be mere conduits. May we benefit too from the graces of our ministry. May we be sanctified, also, as we lead others.
We have to be vigilant not to get carried away and lose sight of our primary vocation to holiness and love. It is another way of saying, "Doing the will of God." Scripture tells us to be doers of the word and not only hearers, so we don't deceive ourselves (Jas 1:22). By so doing, we are secure in the Divine Word.
Who does not want his or her house built on a solid foundation? Become that wise person whom the Lord said, "built his house on the rock" (Mt 7:24). Christ is the rock.
I am praying for the grace to practice what we profess. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday, Week 12: 2 Kings 24:8-17; Matthew 7:21-29]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.