PASTORAL VISIT TO ALL HALLOWS' SEMINARY, ONITSHA.
THEME: “BUILDING ON ROCK AND RENEWING OUR COVENANT.”
1st Reading: Deut. 11:18-28.
Moses urges the people to obey the commandments of God in order to obtain his blessings.
2nd Reading: Rom. 3: 21-25.
St. Paul assures the Romans who are Christ’s faithful that they have been made friends of God though his grace rather than through their own efforts.
The Gospel: Matt. 7: 21-27.
Christ insists that those who listen to his words and keep his commandments are building their lives on a rocklike foundation.
A Little Analysis:
Deut. 11:18, 26-28.
This text shows a type of covenant renewal. Moses, as the leader of his people, delivers God’s words to them, encourages them in the faith and urges them to commit themselves totally to God. This passage contains elements of covenant renewal. Rewards and punishments, blessings and curses in reference to obedience to the law, are mentioned. Such blessings as numerous progeny, good name, abundant crops, a multitude of flocks, peace and security from enemies, are attached to fidelity to the law, while curses imply the contrary.
That the words be tied on their wrist and displayed as pendant on their foreheads is not meant to be literal though they understood it to be so.
Psalm 31: 2-3, 3-4, 17, 25.
Here the psalmist says that God provides refuge and divine protection for the innocent.
Rom. 3: 21-25, 28.
Paul tells the believers in Rome that it is faith which produces righteousness. It is not adherence to the law that produces righteousness. According to Paul, righteousness is revealed not gained. Its origin is in God. The term righteousness is a term borrowed by Paul from the law court showing that one is declared righteous. Paul states that it does not come from works of the law but rather from faith. The point Paul is trying to make is that all is a gift from God. Redemption and justification are received not earned. By name, grace is a gift.
Paul goes to his Jewish roots to explain his point. He calls Jesus – the mercy seat of God. (Kapporet in Hebrew, Hilasterion in Greek). On the top of the Ark of the Covenant (in the OT) was a plate of gold called the “Mercy Seat.” On the day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle this mercy seat with the blood of a sacrificed bull. Paul now refers to this ritual and to the theology it signifies as he identifies Jesus as the hilasterion. Whether this is understood as an act of propitiation that is appeasing the wrath of God or as an act of expiation that is covering of sin, the important thing is that the initiative comes from God who effects the atonement through the blood of Christ.
Paul maintains that righteousness is given by God, what is required of us is faith. This involves a radical openness to receive what God wishes to give. This openness demands an acknowledgement of need and admittance of insufficiency.
Matt. 17: 21-27.
Jesus tells his disciples that their service and discipleship must be grounded on solid rock – which is solid commitment to him, solid commitment to his teachings. The performance of extraordinary feats is not enough. There must also be conformity to the will of God as taught and interpreted by Jesus himself.
Discipleship requires a life of righteousness, not merely charismatic activities and accomplishments. Jesus goes further to teach that entrance into the eschatological kingdom is through adherence to his words: He uses the wisdom traditional style to compare the man who builds his house on solid rock (i.e. his words) and one who builds on mere sand. One he describes as wise, while the other is foolish.
The immediate background of this was the charismatic prophets of the time, called divine men and healers. These were told that at the end, the judgment would not be their charismatic accomplishments but their obedience to the new righteousness set forth in the teachings of Christ.
What can we learn?
- We have to note that faith and good works go together. We are justified not by faith alone and not by good works alone. Both go together. Works of love and mercy must manifest our faith.
- The standard of the world is different from that of Christ’s teaching. For example, such attitudes like selfishness, ambition, rivalry, avarice,, are the worldly standard, while Christ insists on his teachings which include: love, sacrifice, fidelity, goodness, peace, forgiveness, etc. To gain the kingdom, we must stick to Christ’s standard.
- Good discipleship involves inner commitment and external manifestation.
- Our faith goes beyond personal achievements and miracles. Our strength comes from God.
- The choice is always ours like the Israelites and even the disciples of Jesus and that of the Romans.
- Lip service is not enough. Faith and practice go together. Doing the will of the father is the actual test not calling his name. Those who use Jesus name out of false pretences will be punished. Jesus calls for hearing and performing. Do not prefer outward symbols to inner reality.