“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’” Matthew 7:21-23
In this sobering Scripture passage, Jesus makes it quite clear that it is possible to honor the Lord with our lips and labors yet possess a heart that is far from knowing him. How does this happen? As an infant, I was baptized into Christ and his Church. I experienced first-hand the sacraments as "powers that come forth" from the body of Christ himself, which is ever-living, life-giving, and efficacious (CCC 1116, 1127) meaning Jesus imparts saving grace to those who receive them — including myself as a baby! Those graces, however, lay dormant throughout my childhood as I failed to respond in thought, word and deed to the gift I had received. This cognitive dissonance was clearly demonstrated one Sunday afternoon when a Christian neighbor asked if our family had attended church that weekend. Upon hearing we had not attended, he let us know in no uncertain terms that we were on our way to hell for violating the Sabbath! Servile fear suddenly gripped us! Seeing our distress, my parents were quick to reassure us that we were all going to heaven because we had been baptized — end of story. My innocent and impressionable mind translated this as the golden ticket to glory, and nothing else was required.
Like many Catholics, I had been sacramentalized without being evangelized. I knew about Jesus, yet I did not know Jesus. I was catechized in how to eat and drink in the presence of the King but had not given my whole heart freely and fully to him. Therefore, I was neither faithful to nor fruitful in my head knowledge of him. I was “incorporated into the Church” through baptism but wasn’t persevering in love. I remained “in the bosom of the Church” in body only (Luke 13:22-30, CCC 837).
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church states, “all the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved, but they will be the more severely judged” (LG 14, emphasis added).
My fellow disciples, “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Death closes the door to accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ, and “at the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (CCC 1021-1022). At that moment, it will be too late to turn to the Lord.
Here is the good news: today is the day of salvation! Today the door is open to respond to the grace of Christ on the narrow road called conversion of heart, whereby we pass from death to life, from merely knowing about Jesus to intimately knowing and loving him as he knows and loves us. The shepherd of our souls is summoning, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me… For this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom (he) has sent” (John 10:27-28, John 17:3). To all disciples he declares, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10). To know is to love. To love is to obey. To obey is to abide. To abide is to be known.
St. Paul echoes our Lord and urges us, “…if one loves God, one is known by him. At a time when you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and destitute elemental powers? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again” (1 Corinthians 8:3, Galatians 4:9)?
To fully experience this fruitful life of being known and loved by Jesus, we must freely and faithfully welcome him to be master of our hearts. Together with St. Augustine, let us cry out to the Lord, “Let me know Thee who knowest me, let me know Thee even as I am known. O Thou, the Power of my soul, enter into it and fit it for Thyself, that Thou mayest have it and possess it without spot or wrinkle” (Confessions, Book Ten, 1).
Your brother in Christ,
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