The First Reading has a commentary on the fall of Judah to Babylon: he (the king) did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done. The king of Judah surrendered to the king of Babylon who plunders the Temple and carried all the treasures of the Temple. He also carried away all leaders of Jerusalem, leaving the poor in the land. Finally, the king appointed a puppet king to rule over Judah. The author was clear that all these happened because the king did evil in the sight of the Lord.
When we do evil, we reject God and God respects that. He leaves. When he leaves, he also lifts his protection from us, exposing us to whatever forces surround us. In the case of Judah, God’s leaving resulted in its conquest and exile. What was the evil that the king did? He allowed idol worship and its practices into his kingdom. These practices include child sacrifices and other forms of immorality. The people of Judah thought they had God’s protection because his Temple is in their land, so they can do whatever they want since God is with them. But by accepting these practices, they have rejected God.
In the Gospel today, Jesus says Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Our entry into the kingdom of heaven does not depend on what we do, but on our obedience to God. Jesus continues On that day, many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me you evil doers.” The people spoke of doing powerful works in the name of Jesus, yet Jesus calls them evil doers why? Because they thought their deeds of power please God. They though they were the source of these deeds of power. But all these things are nothing if one does not do the will of God. What good are our charitable works, when we also do things that displease God?
Before the conquest of Jerusalem, people were offering sacrifices at the Temple, the Temple worship was still there, but they continued to practice idolatry, which rejects God as their only God. They thought Temple worship guarantees God’s protection. Obviously it did not. People who boast of their charitable works think these guarantee a place in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says it does not. What matters to Jesus is what he says: everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. Disaster comes and the house will not fall.
What guarantees God’s presence in our lives? Not our going to mass, not our receiving communion, not our praying the rosary, not our preaching and teaching, not our donation to the poor, not our works of charity. These are of no use if we continue to live in mortal sin with no desire to repent. What guarantees God’s presence in our lives is obedience to his Word.
This pandemic has deprived us of the joy of visiting a church. We have been deprived of mass, we have been deprived of fellowship, we have been deprived of being able to serve others. Perhaps the Lord is telling us, all these things, important as they are, mean nothing to him, because what is important is God himself and our relationship with and obedience to him. The pandemic has destroyed many lives. The recent riots have destroyed many properties. There is now a call to destroy statues in churches (Lord, frustrate these plans) and some churches have already been vandalized. God is calling us to repentance, to draw near to him, to cleave to him and never let go of him.
Lord, during these days of pandemic, you have stripped me of what I thought wais important. I thought, my money, my position, my properties, my health, my visits to church, my charitable works are what matter. Yet you show me Lord, all these things mean nothing to you because literally, in an instant, these things are gone. You are the only One left. You are all that matters and my relationship with you and obedience to your Word. Help me Lord in all these things that are happening. As the Psalm says: How long, O Lord? Do not remember against us the sins of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us… Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name, deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake. Come Lord Jesus. You are all I have.