Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Does Jesus Say? - Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflections on the Readings
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - March 6, 2011 - Year A 
By Dennis S. Hankins

What Does Jesus Say?

"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." - Jesus

A popular phrase is, "What would Jesus do?"  It comes from a book titled, In His Steps.  This popular phrase, a marketing success in recent years, included bracelets and necklaces with the initials WWJD.  Not everyone knew what WWJD meant except those who wore the wrist or ankle band or bracelet.  Also, there were lovely pendants and necklaces that gracefully and fashionably carried the WWJD logo.  Certainly everything we do should be in the person and love of Jesus. As Bishop Stika reminds us, we are to be the face of Jesus.  

The readings today ask us to to respond to God's word.  Jesus describes those who hear his words and does them and those who hear his words without taking them to heart.  In the first reading, Moses exhorts the people of God to take his words into their heart and soul.  God gave his commandments and laws to perfect and to persuade his chosen people.  Moses embraced these words for himself and enjoined Israel to embrace God's words.  Figuratively, Moses spoke of wearing the ten commandments as a sign of commitment on the wrist or as a pendant on the forehead. 

Moses received God's special message and words for his people at the top of Mt. Sinai.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expounds the heart of his message to his disciples and followers.  Beginning with the Beatitudes, Jesus spoke of another kingdom where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves aren't able to break in and steal.  And Jesus invites us to make his words, his teaching, the treasure of our heart; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  

Jesus' teaching call us to be obedient to the faith.  We cannot just hear what Jesus says, but we must act on what Jesus says.  The message today is WDJS - What does Jesus say?  And its to our peril if we fail to build our life upon the truth that sets us free.  It is bondage and destruction to ignore the life-giving message of Jesus.  As Jesus says, "Not every one 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." 

The entire Sermon on the Mount requires obedience:  hunger and thirst after righteousness; let your light shine; don't look upon a woman with lust; beware of practicing your piety to be seen; ask, seek, knock.  Jesus alone gives us the words of eternal life.

The rock of safety is the bedrock truth of the gospel.  When the spirit of this age assails us, it is the teaching of Jesus that is a rock of refuge, a stronghold of safety.  There are strong winds of deception blowing against the truth.  Storms are gathering to beat down, if possible, every faithful follower of Christ.  

The bodachs are looking for every possibility to see the gospel defeated, every Christian denounced as a menace, every congregation of Christian faith closed.  These featureless, beguiling imps of hell, do the bidding of their master, gleeful of every assault of anti-Chrisitian sentiment.  The rains will fall and the floods come; the winds will blow and beat against the builder of the house that takes Jesus' words to heart and obeys them.  But both the builder and the house will still be standing when the sun comes up in the morning.  The truth of merciful love and forgiveness will remain for they rest upon the teachings of Jesus.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of Jesus are forever. 

It is important to hear Jesus speaking of the spiritual battles that will come.  The ever present darkness of this world is evident.  It is not benign.  Echoing Jesus' teaching, St. Paul speaks of spiritual warfare as an encounter with an organized force of malevolent spirits. He describes these spirits as principalities, powers, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)  

I sometimes think that the early Church understood this reality better than we do.  Paul reflects on the challenges to the believers of his day. He reminds them that nothing can separate them from the love of God - not death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38ff) 

And Jesus said, "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock."  Amen.

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