9th Sunday in Ordinary Time 06-01-08

Scripture Readings First Dt 11:18, 26-28, 32 Second Rom 3:21-25, 28 Gospel Mt 7:21-27 Prepared by: Fr. Lawrence J. Donohoo, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

First Reading: The simple and stark teaching on the consequences of obedience and disobedience, presented countless times in this text, serves as a summary of Deuteronomy as a recapitulation of Exodus and Numbers for a later generation. Second Reading: After arguing that both the Jews and the Gentiles are unrighteous by their respective disobedience to the Law of Moses and to the natural law written on human conscience, St. Paul offers this overture of hope in the faith that gives access to justifying grace. He will develop this theme in the subsequent chapters, especially 5-8. Gospel: In this summary statement of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the futility of even religious works performed by those who do not do the Father’s will with those who do. All Three Readings: Deuteronomy contrasts the blessings and curses that follow obedience and disobedience; St. Paul contrasts the non-justifying works of the Law and the justifying grace accepted in faith; Jesus contrasts the futility of words and even actions not rooted in the Father’s will and unconditional obedience to his will.

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2. Exegetical Notes

“The Mosaic law has nothing to do with this new manifestation of God’s uprightness—at least directly. . . .[For] the OT was privileged to prepare for this manifestation of God’s uprightness.” (Fitzmyer) “Paul means that a sinful human being is not only ‘declared upright,’ but is made upright (see 5:19), for justification as an effect of the Christ-event can also be seen as a ‘new creation,’ in which the sinner becomes the very ‘uprightness of God’.” (Fitzmyer) The Old Testament is replete with texts teaching that God will judge everyone on the basis of their deeds. Among New Testament texts continuing this lesson, see Mt. 16:27, Rm. 2:6, 2 Cor. 5:10, Acts 10:34-35.

“Matt[hew]’s view challenges Christian complacency and arrogant assurance of salvation. This view may seem opposed to Paul’s, but Paul too strove to prevent his followers from drawing immoral or amoral conclusions from his gospel and warned Christians that they too would be judged (e.g., 1 Cor 3:13-15). Still there can be different pastoral emphases, one for the excessively scrupulous, one for the lax.” (Viviano) “These words of mine: This phrase points back to the sermon itself as a kind of Torah. For Matthew following the word of Jesus is wisdom about life.” (Viviano) “The expression ‘on that day’ refers to the last judgment. The scene anticipates the great judgment scene in Matt 25:31-46. . . .I never knew you; depart from me: The first formula anticipates Peter’s denial of Jesus in Matt 26:72. The second anticipates the Son of Man’s judgment in Matt 25:41.” (Harrington)

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3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
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1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism. 1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that "the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away." He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy. 1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. 1970 The Law of the Gospel requires us to make the decisive choice between "the two ways" and to put into practice the words of the Lord. It is summed up in the Golden Rule, "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; this is the law and the prophets." 1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven. 2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

4. Patristic Commentary

St. Gregory: “The proof of holiness is not to work miracles, but to love our neighbor as ourselves, to think truly of God, and of our neighbor better than of ourselves.”

Pseudo-Chrysostom: “He then that is likened is a man, but to whom is he likened? To Christ, but Christ is the wise man who has built his house, that is , the Church, upon a rock, that is, upon the strength of the faith.” St. Hilary: “By the showers [Jesus] signifies the allurements of smooth and gently invading pleasures, with which the faith is at first watered as with spreading rills, afterward comes down the rush of torrential floods, that is the motions of fiercer desire, and lastly, the whole force of the driving tempests rages against it, that is, the universal spirits of the devil’s reign attack it.” St. Augustine: “But it should be noted that when [Christ] said, “He that hears these words of mine,” he shows plainly enough that this sermon is made complete by all those precepts by which the Christian life is formed, so that with good reason they that desire to live according to them may be compared to one that builds on a rock.”

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars
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St. Paul, the Apostle of faith who insisted that our works cannot demand God’s righteousness, spent a life of unremitting hard work and suffering on behalf of the Gospel. “It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 - 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many infidels.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, on St. Francis Xavier) Blessed Margaret (1287-1320) was born a hunchback, midget, blind, lame and ugly. When only six years old, her parents of noble origin walled her up beside a chapel. She could not get out, but could attend Mass and receive the sacraments. After 14 years of imprisonment, her parents took her to a shrine to pray for a cure. When no cure was forthcoming, they abandoned her. She became a lay Dominican and spent the rest of her life in prayer and works of mercy.

6. Quotations

“[Trent] did the essential in strongly highlighting two basic Catholic theses. First, justification is not something extrinsic, but a radical transformation in man, an ontological change which places divine friendship in an order completely different from that of moral or juridical categories. Secondly, man is not a passive and inert instrument in this gradual transformation; he truly cooperates in his justification. God will not save him apart from his own efforts.” (Henri Rondet) “The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did.” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi) “Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my

conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

7. Other Considerations

Anticipating Luther’s teaching that interprets justification in terms of God’s simply imputing righteousness to us on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, St. Thomas radicalizes Luther’s teaching.. It is indeed true that God imputes righteousness to us, but the Lutheran understanding does not take this far enough and so misses the truth that God effects non-imputation by way of transforming grace. The richer teaching of the Catholic understanding, as Thomas indicates, is based on an analysis of divine love. If God loves us so much as not to impute sin to us, then he will enact that transformation by which neither he nor we can impute sin to ourselves either—because of his cleansing grace of sanctification. Strictly speaking, we are not justified by faith (insofar as it is a human “work”), but God’s divine grace expressed as a free and undeserved enactment of salvation in the human heart. What St. Paul wishes to emphasize is that it is the human reception of this free offer of redeeming love that gives us access to the grace of justification (Rm. 5:2), which is the very essence of faith. In this sense, faith for St. Paul is the grace-enabled human reception of God’s gracious salvation. As he elsewhere teaches, however, the full reception of God’s work of salvation is constituted by a life that requires expression not only in faith, but also in deeds motivated by hope and charity, and manifesting such graceinflected human virtues as justice (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 13:2b). In this way a link may be made to the Gospel teaching. The will of the Father has already been concretized in the preceding teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. “In other words, to do the will of the Father entails prayerful renunciation of self-will, generous compassion and forgiveness toward others, the willingness to receive a new identity in God, solicitude toward the poor and the needy, and unmitigated self-donation in the face of suffering. If we do not disown our presumptuous assumptions about what qualifies us for heaven, then we ourselves will be disowned.” (Cameron)

Recommended Resources Benedict XVI. Spe Salvi. Brown, Raymond A., Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1990. Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach - Cycle A. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Sacra Pagina Series, vol. 1. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. Works of the Fathers. Vol. 3, Pt. 2. London, 1843. Reprinted by The St. Austin Press, 1997.