In this passage from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7, verse 21, Jesus is warning the disciples to be wary of false prophets, who will come among them like wolves in sheeps clothing. But Jesus has broadened that message here to include those disciples among them who perform works of healing and of exorcism in the name of Jesus (the Lord) but who live very hypocritical lives. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord;’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”

These words ought to make every one who is trying to live the Christian life shudder. Our faith must be deeper than mere words. It is easy to say Lord, Lord. Indeed, much can be done in the world by using words, for good, and for evil. Just saying we believe is not enough. The second clause in this passage is the key here. “…but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” This is the qualifier. This is the part that we need to meditate on every day of our faith lives. Do our statements of belief match our actions, the ways that we live in the world with everyone, in all situations? This is the key for our self-examination. Do we know the will of God? Are we humble enough to bend our wills to his? Are we actually living according to that will? Do we turn to God in our weakness and ask him for the graces we need to be able to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world, now, with our daily lives?

Note here that this passage is not so much about judging others, as it is about being aware of one’s own motivations. This is a particularly pointed admonition to us from Jesus. Indeed, its importance is advanced by the verses that follow immediately after this one. Jesus tells the disciples that “on that day” (the Last Judgement) “Many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Die we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will say to them solemnly, I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (verses 22-23)

That is as stark a warning as we can find in the scriptures. This is what should send a chill down our spines. Yes, we are to be aware of the fact that the words of faith, used in the mouths of those who use them for their own gain, or to lead us astray, can be attractive, and appear to be in accord with God’s will, but are not. Rather than leading us to the Father, they can take us away from him. But more importantly, we are to recognize, in the depths of our own being, that this faith that has been so generously given to us, must be more than words. We must fear the Lord above all else. Fear of the Lord is synonymous with union with God, with wholesome, righteous religious living in perfect obedience to God. Do we live our lives in a manner that is directed in every way by God? This could be the meaning and purpose of a nightly self-examination in the midst of our prayer conversations with God. God is with us. This we can believe. And we can trust that he desires our success in following him in word and deed. If we bend our will to his, he will give us all that we need to follow him in all things.

Lord, our greatest desire is to follow you. Help us in our daily efforts to do that by giving us the wisdom to humbly reflect on what we say and do in your name. Give us the graces we need to be true to your loving call to us to follow you. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!

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