Matthew 7:21, 24-27
"You, O Lord, are close, and all your ways are truth." Today’s opening antiphon of our liturgical celebration tells us clearly that we have begun the season of Advent. God is close – the Lord is coming. We are preparing for his entrance into our world once again on the great feast of his Nativity, Christmas.
The kingdom of God is at hand, and in our first reading Isaiah describes poetically what that kingdom will be like: a strong city whose ramparts protect us and keep us in peace. It is a city where justice reigns, and the peace that flows from justice pervades all those who dwell there.
The psalmist then calls us to give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever.
As we advance towards this city, let us call upon the Lord and bless his name.
But in the opening of the gospel Jesus brings us up short. "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven." – We halt in our procession with the psalmist.
"Not so fast," Jesus seems to say. "Knowing me, and calling me Lord, is not going to open these gates for you." What will open them? Who will go through? "Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’…, "but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."
Doing the will of the Father, Jesus’s Father and our Father, Father of all – that is the key that opens the gates.
Jesus then poses to his disciples the parable of the two "contractors," the one who built his house on rock and the one who built on sand. In recent years we have witnessed, through TV and technology, the terrible devastation, destruction, and ravages of floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes all over the world. This parable speaks to us today through these powerful images. For building our spiritual life, for true spiritual growth, the foundation, Jesus is saying, is not words but deeds, not speaking but doing – doing the will of God.
And what is the will of God for us? At the end of his gospel Matthew sums it up clearly in his final picture of the last judgment: those who will enter the kingdom are those who love God in others – who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked – who give of themselves and of all that they have to the poor and the needy. These, even the ones who may never have known Jesus during their lifetime, will be welcomed by him and his Father because when they did these things to their fellow human beings, they did them to Jesus.
How can we best prepare for Christmas? The gospel makes that clear. Thanks be to God!
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, St. Xavier High School, across the creek from Sacred Heart Passionist Monastery in Louisville,KY