“…and 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.”
Today’s gospel (Mt 7:21-29), which concludes the Sermon on the Mount, blows away the wishful thinking of the “once saved, always saved” crowd. Matthew the Evangelist closes these three chapters — a veritable catalogue of Jesus’ teachings — with a paragraph containing the solemn words of the headline and the converse below it.
How seriously are we to take this? “These words of mine” are not merely wise utterances of a simple sage. “These words” are Jesus Himself, the Word of God (see the prologue to John’s gospel). The very last line of this chapter in Matthew has the crowds declaring that Jesus “taught them as one having authority” (v. 29). In His day, many of Christ’s hearers acknowledged His authority to teach in this way and took it seriously. Today, an “easy believism” pervades Christianity, telling the adherent that it is simply “believe and be saved” (whatever “believe” means) or that no one goes to hell (if there even is a hell). No consequences for sin to us personally. Really?
Jesus words here should disabuse anyone holding those perspectives of their false notions. Scripture is not designed to have its words cherry picked or selectively proof texted so that it aligns with one believes (or wishes). An extraordinarily important concept for reading the Bible properly is something that has been mentioned more than once in these posts, but of which I never tire of repeating, and that is the “content and unity” of Scripture. Let me quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which gets this from the Vatican II document Dei Verbum):
Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.
Scripture is not pitted against itself. Beware of any person, any article, or any book that tries to argue or convince you otherwise. Any attempt to divide Scripture or set portions aside (whether through ignorance or deceit) marks an attempt to misconstrue the one Word. Listen to St. John of the Cross:
In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), [God the Father] spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. (see CCC 65)
This one Word is Jesus who tells us, in the inerrant gospels, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). In this one reading, Jesus shows us the way to life through the authoritative, i.e., truthful, teaching that He gives because He is God.
So let us come to know the Word, the entire Word, better through the Mass, the Bible, and the Church (“the house…set solidly on rock” — v. 25), in order to be faithful to Jesus, thus becoming the wise person who acts on His word.