Ninth Sunday of the Year. Fr Denis Geraghty reminds us of the importance of knowing, and of being known.
Matthew 7.21-27, the Gospel for the ninth Sunday of the year, is a very important reflection on the understanding of judgment. What Jesus has to say makes uncomfortable reading, which often means our glossing it over or even ‘air brushing’ it away. But that will not do. Statements about judgment are important, they must be taken seriously because otherwise they would not be there.
The statement ‘Lord, Lord’ is remarkable because Jesus presents himself as the one who decides who does and does not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Those who enter it will not do so by simply calling Jesus ‘Lord’ or by prophesying but by doing God’s will. Jesus must ‘know’ them. But if we prophesy, cast our demons in the name of Christ, how can we go wrong?
We are being warned against complacency and the danger of self-deception. Believing that we are on the road to salvation when we are not. The operative word here is ‘to know’. Those who are rejected are told ‘I do not know you’. The word ‘know’ has many layers of meaning and involves a close relationship, often a sexual relationship: ‘and Abraham knew his wife’ – meaning that he had sexual relations with her. It is an imagery that expresses God’s special relationship with his people.
In this Gospel we are reminded that Jesus ‘knows’ his disciples and they must know him. And it is this mutual knowledge through faith and the Holy Spirit that gives us entry into the kingdom. Jesus is the sole arbiter of who will enter the kingdom and who will not. Jesus is active as God on his father’s authority.
So then, can we be lost? Can human beings for whom Jesus dies lose their salvation? I think that we must accept that such a loss is possible. The kingdom of God is a pure unsolicited act of love on God’s part. It is his gratuitous gift and we cannot earn it. But love in any form can be accepted or rejected. God our Father cannot coerce us into loving him. If, hypothetically, God could so act as to prevent us from rejecting his love then it would not be authentic love because love requires free reciprocity. So, there is the possibility of loss because there is the possibility of rejecting love. God so respects human freedom that he will allow us to remain for ever with the decision we have made.
This is why we must build our house upon a rock, the rock-like fidelity of faith. So that when storms, winds and floods come our house will not be swept away and we will inherit the kingdom prepared for us.