Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 26:1-6 + Matthew 7:21,24-27
“… only the one who does the will of my Father ….”
The Apostle Paul is sometimes quoted in order to create a false division between faith and good works. St. Paul makes clear—so it’s said—that salvation in Christ is based upon faith alone. Good works play no role—so it’s said—in reaching salvation.
Against such misappropriation of St. Paul’s words we have the explanation of Jesus in today’s Gospel Reading. “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.” Should we take Jesus’ reference to someone saying, “Lord, Lord” and equate it with faith, which some say alone bears salvation? One might argue that point, and it’s a point worth debating.
However, one cannot doubt that Jesus in today’s Gospel Reading is making a sharp contrast. Nor can one doubt that when Jesus declares that only the one who does the will of His Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus is speaking about the performance of good works. At the same time, we ought to be precise about Jesus’ words about this point: in order to be good works, works must be done according to the will of God the Father. Not just any old good works will do.
Finally, we ought to note something about those who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord”. Jesus doesn’t say here, and the Church does not teach, that salvation is reached by good works alone. Note whom Jesus is speaking about when He declares: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” He is speaking about a general set of people: all those who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” Within that set, there is a smaller sub-set. Among those who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord”, only those who also do the will of God the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
During this holy season of Advent, then, our good works can help us not only prepare one day to enter Heaven, but also to celebrate Christmastide fittingly. This celebration begins with allowing the newborn Christ to bring us from Heaven a bit of His divine life.