March 11, 2011

Homily: 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father Rene Butler

Recently I asked a group if the Jesus’ words about the houses built on rock and on sand reminded anyone think of a children’s story. Sure enough, some had thought of The Three Little Pigs. You must remember it:

Wolf: "Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
Pig: "No, no, by the hair on my chiny chin chin."
Wolf: "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in.
Both the Gospel and the fairy tale make the same point about the importance of choices. The choices we make can be right or wrong, good or bad. And they have consequences.

In Deuteronomy Moses makes this eminently clear. He speaks of Blessing and curse; he makes a promise and issues a warning, inviting us to choose wisely.

Jesus compares our life to a house, which can be built on a solid foundation or a weak one. The choice is ours.

How many choices have you made today? Not just the easy ones, like what to wear or what to eat, which are of no particular consequence unless they are unhealthy choices.

The real question is, How many difficult choices have you made today, this week? How many important choices, choices that matter? How many times were you faced with choosing between right and wrong, good and bad?

Jesus says that the criterion is doing the Father’s will, which he defines as listening to his words and acting on them. But in this case, why does he reject, in the first part of today’s Gospel text, people who are doing great things in the name of Jesus?

Paul helps us to understand. The issue isn’t just what we do – our works – but the why, which is faith. T.S. Eliot in his play Murder in the Cathedral gives the following lines to Bishop Thomas Becket:
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason
Indeed, there are lots of good reasons for doing what is right and good. Jesus wants us to do what is right and good for the best reason: because we believe in him, because we are his disciples. Because we are Christians.

This is a truly noble goal. Experience teaches us that it is easier said than done.

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