I read a quote recently that said, more or less, that you can have a relationship with anyone, but you have intimacy with relatively few people. The evangelical call for everyone to have a relationship with Jesus Christ is, in fact, lacking. If salvation were something magical that came about as the result of just saying a simple prayer, once and for all, then everyone would pursue a relationship with Christ. But the fact is, salvation is hard work. It was purchased at an incredible price by Jesus on that cross. And for us to make it relevant in our lives, we have work to do too. Not the kind of work that earns salvation, but the kind of work that appropriates it into our lives.
Because people who are saved behave in a specific way. They are people who take the Gospel seriously and live it every day. They are people of integrity that stand up for what’s right in every situation, no matter what it personally costs. They are people of justice who will not tolerate the sexist or racist joke, let alone tolerate a lack of concern for the poor and the oppressed. They are people of deep prayer, whose lives are wrapped up in the Eucharist and the sacraments, people who confront their own sinfulness by examination of conscience and sacramental Penance. They are people who live lightly in this world, not getting caught up in its excess and distraction, knowing they are citizens of a heaven where such things have no permanence. Saved people live in a way that is often hard, but always joyful.
Not everyone who claims a relationship with Christ, not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s what Jesus tells us today. We have to build our spiritual houses on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, living as he lived, following his commandments, and clinging to him in prayer and sacrament as if our very life depended on it. Because it does. It does.