Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
March 6: Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
After they cross the Jordan River, Moses warns them, they will be tempted to forsake the Lord, adopt the wicked ways of the Canaanites and worship false gods. In this week’s first reading Moses urges his people to remember everything he had taught them, saying “Take these words of mine into your heart.” The choice is simple: if they keep the commandments and remain faithful, they will be blessed. If they don’t, they won’t.
The reading from Romans seems to conflict with Moses’ teaching, for Paul says that “a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Salvation history is the story of a people called to be faithful and holy. But time and time again they failed. The consequence of their failure was to forfeit God’s blessings.
Paul’s point is that what the people failed to do, Christ did: In him “the righteousness of God has been manifested.” Thus, those who are in Christ are “justified.” Simply “being a good person” or doing good deeds isn’t enough; it’s about being in right relationship to God. From this relationship good deeds follow.
This Sunday’s Gospel concludes the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says that those who merely pay lip service to him, or do good deeds but have no real relationship with him are not truly his disciples. The parable of the two houses—one built on sand and the other on solid rock—echoes the choice between blessing and curse presented in the first reading.
Key verse: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mt 7:24).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “By his Revelation, ‘the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.’ The adequate response to this invitation is faith (No.142).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The whole history of salvation progressively demonstrates this profound bond between the word of God and the faith which arises from an encounter with Christ. Faith thus takes shape as an encounter with a person to whom we entrust our whole life” (The Word of the Lord, No. 25).
Life application: Many people are headed for damnation because they’ve built their lives on the wrong things. The commandments of God and Christ’s words contain timeless truths and transcendent principles without which life collapses in despair. Only a life built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and his teachings can stand up to the vagaries of life and lead us to heaven.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.