Obedience and Grace

Matthew 7: 21-29
Gn 16:1-12.15-16 / Ps 106

Therefore everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.
(Matthew 7:24)

Let obedience to Your laws, Lord
Be the prime rule in all our ways;
This has kept us from all discord,
And led us to this life of grace.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house; but it did not collapse, because it had been built solidly on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rains came down, the floods rose, and the winds blew and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7: 21-29)

Reflection

Don’t we often hear some Christians say, “All you have to do is accept that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and you will be saved”? Well, today’s Gospel passage should set the record straight that merely professing one’s faith is not enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then there are those who say “Faith without works is useless” (Jam. 2:20). But even if our “works” are as miraculous as making prophecies or exorcising evil spirits, they are of no value to our faith if not done according to the will of the Father. Nothing we do in this life has any merit or substance unless we do it out of obedience to the commands of God.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will ever the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Obedience is the rock and foundation of our faith. When the floods of trials and sufferings come (as they inevitably do in everyone’s life), their onslaught will be in vain, as our fidelity in God’s Word will keep us steadfast and strong. When all our dreams and aspirations seem to fail, obedience is our lifeline of hope. It keeps us from being overwhelmed by despair, as we cling to God’s promise that He will “deliver whoever knows My Name; who call upon Me I will answer, and be with them in times of distress” (Psa. 91:14-15). Obedience is also the fire that purifies our heart, and is the true measure of our love for God. Whatever the pains or difficulties His laws and decrees may entail, we obey, simply because we love Him.

It is not what we accomplish for our Church or for our community that brings us to the fellowship of Christ. He has already redeemed us long before our conversion. Salvation is a grace freely given by God to His obedient servants. Only by our obedience were we qualified to merit this grace. In fact, it is by God’s grace that we have been transformed; and all our good deeds are simply the fruits of what we have already received. They are outpourings of our gratitude to God for having led us into this new life of grace.

Our Lord is telling us that we cannot take our salvation for granted. Obedience is the key, and the directions are laid out in Holy Scriptures. Unless we read the Bible, and follow Jesus Christ’s instructions in the Gospel, we may just be building our house on sand. Our faith is a house we must build on the firm foundation of God’s will. Whatever we do, we must pray to Him first for guidance, lest like Abraham’s wife , Sarai, we might misinterpret God’s will and take matters into our own hands, and produce the wrong result, like the illegitimate son of Hagar, Ishmael, who became Abraham’s first born (Gen.16:1-6).

Lord Jesus, like the Jews in Your time, we are always amazed at the wisdom of Your teachings. Help us Lord to read Your mind, so that Your words we can fully understand; make us see that in all things, Your Will alone is our command. Amen.

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