This Sunday we return to Ordinary Time. We also return to the Gospel of Matthew for most of the remaining Sundays of the year. If you have not yet taken an hour or two to read the Gospel of Matthew from beginning to end, this might be a good time to do so. Too often, we take the Sunday gospel passage out of its context and therefore miss much of its power as sacred story.
The selection for today leads into the conclusion to the discourse generally known as the Sermon on the Mount. It falls naturally into two sections and both are about personal integrity. The first part is about the insincerity of those who say the right things and do good deeds without concern for the will of God. They only appear to speak and act in the name of Jesus and in the interests of the gospel. They will be rejected at the final judgment (‘on that day’) and told that they are in fact practitioners of lawlessness (usually translated ‘evildoers’) or breakers of the law. This is a sobering word for those of us who have, through baptism, publicly professed our commitment to a gospel way of life. It reminds us to be who we are.
An architectural parable follows these sayings. It contrasts two kinds of builders, a wise one who builds a house on rock and a foolish one who builds a house on sand. Wisdom lies in hearing the teaching of Jesus and acting on it. Those who follow this path have built a firm foundation for their faith life and can sustain whatever adversity comes their way. Foolishness lies in hearing the word and failing to act. Those who choose this path can expect a mighty fall. Just as the people of Israel were to hear and obey the law given to them on Mt Sinai (Exodus 19:8; 24:7), so are the disciples to hear and obey the word offered them by Jesus.
House or household is a frequent theme in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus is born in a house and the wise ones from the East enter the house to pay him homage (2:11). The house is the locus of healing (8:14; 9:23), and teaching (9:10-13). Households can be imaged as gospel treasuries (13:52). In Matthew’s time, groups of disciples gathered in houses to reflect on the words of Jesus and to break the bread of Eucharist. Ordinary Time in company with Matthew’s community offers us an opportunity to check again the gospel foundations of our homes or gathering places and to make of them treasuries of grace.
-Veronica Lawson RSM