Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Commentary for the 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

Each of the 3 readings for mass this Sunday speak about living with integrity, from the inside out, our relationship with God underpinning all our actions. Each of the readings reminds us that a faith professed but not put into action is empty and lifeless.

In the passage from Deuteronomy, Moses urges his listeners to take God’s words into their hearts and souls. Taking them into their heads and being able to recite them is not enough. They are to be heard and lived. I could not help but think that when we memorize a passage, we say we ‘know it by heart’. If we pause to really consider those words, we find a challenge to listen at the deepest level, to allow the words to penetrate and permeate our entire being. Isn’t that what Benedict tells us when he begins the Rule with the admonition ‘listen with the ear of your heart?” (Pro.1)

Matthew, who portrays Jesus as the new Moses, focuses his gospel on what it means to live in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom in which all are welcomed, which allows goodness and good works to radiate God’s glory.

The passage for this Sunday is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Beginning with the beatitudes, Jesus has shared with his listeners the attitudes and behaviors of Beatitude living, of Kingdom dwelling. His words have been challenging, His expectations high. Jesus’ parting words to the crowd remind them that only those who do the will of God will enter the Kingdom. The root word of the ancient term for will actually means ‘delight’. Kingdom followers are called to do what delights God. Are we doing what is right? Restoring right relationships? Acting in our world so that God can once again look upon His people and say “it is VERY good”? Benedict cautions us that ‘the love of God must come before all else.’ (4:21) If we are truly putting the love of God first, and acting from that love, we are doing God’s will.

Jesus cautions us to make our houses on rock rather than sand, to be sure that we have a strong foundation, that we are building our lives upon God, the ground of our being. He does not say that those with strong foundations will be spared from the wind and storms. Jesus points out that those whose lives are built on God will be able to withstand the tempests of life as they lean on God, the rock of their salvation. The wise person builds on rock. The word wise comes from an ancient word that means ‘to adopt a purpose, feel concern, and live in harmony’. The wise person is she who, building on a strong faith, is open to embrace all of God’s people, to reach out to the broken Body of Christ and bring about healing and harmony. The wise person is she who is able to rely on God, even in the midst of suffering, trial and temptation.

When I first read this gospel, I marveled at how it reflected each of our monastic vows:
Obedience: listening to and acting upon the Word
Fidelity: nurturing the relationship we have with God so that our foundation stays a strong, sturdy rock
on which to build our lives; being open to the conversion that this relationship demands
Stability: standing upon the Rock of our salvation, which is God: Father, Son and Spirit

Perhaps the greatest call and challenge in the Gospel today is the call to continued conversion. True conversion means that our actions, thoughts and feelings are firmly and clearly formed by God’s Word, that we allow the God who choose us to form us and change us day by day.

Today, and throughout the coming week, let us examine ourselves and the house we have each built. If the foundation is strong, but the structure a bit shaky, let us be brave enough, attentive enough to do whatever remodeling is necessary to ensure that our house can, in fact, withstand life’s many storms.

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see the One who has called us to the Kingdom.” (Pro. 21)

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