“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matt 7:24-27)
The Two Foundations
This passage from today’s gospel reading warn us about the necessity of listening to and heeding the words of Christ in our lives to avoid spiritual ruin. Jesus advises his followers that there are two foundations upon which we can build our lives: a foundation of rock, which is one based on Christ and his Church, or a foundation of sand, which ignores the words of Jesus and instead follows the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He warns them of the dangers of the second foundation. When the rainstorms of life come, which they inevitably will, those whose homes are built on sand are doomed for spiritual destruction and ruin.
Acting on His Words
How do we build our spiritual house on rock? The answer is in the passage: listen to Jesus’ words and act on them. Many Christians today are satisfied with the bare minimum of Sunday mass and maybe a few Our Fathers here and there as their commitment to Christ. While this is commendable, Christ calls us to do more. He calls us to listen and hear his teachings and to act on them – to obey and follow him. He is calling us to continually change and convert. How is God calling us today to act on his words? He may be calling us to reach out to someone in need. To apologize for a wrong we have done or to forgive someone who has wronged us. To repent of sin and change our lives. To seek help for a problem or sinful behavior. He is calling those who have been away from the Church to return to the sacraments, to seek out a confessor and return to Reconciliation and Eucharist. For those who have not belonged to the Church, he calls and invites you to relationship with him and to seek out Christian community in the Church.
Following His Commandments
What words should we be listening to and obeying? We are called primarily to observe and obey the Ten Commandments, given to us by God and still relevant and binding today, even though the world tells us they are antiquated and outdated. The New Testament reveals Christ’s love and forgiveness and calls us back into relationship with him when we have sinned and gone astray. The Beatitudes especially convey to us how to live our lives with love for God and neighbor. During his three years on earth of traveling and preaching to his followers, Jesus taught us how to live according to the law of God, which is love and obedience. By reading the gospels and reflecting on them, we learn the truths that Christ taught and we imitate his example in our own lives.
A Foundation of Humility
Every prayer we speak aloud or in our hearts, every Holy Communion we receive worthily, every Confession, every time we deny our own will for the will of God, we are constructing our house on the strong and solid foundation of Christ the Rock. A sturdy house is not built overnight. It takes time, patience and hard work. We begin with the foundation of humility. St. Faustina said of this virtue: “The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud.” We must be humble enough to realize our neediness and dependence upon God for everything. Humble enough to accept that we can not do it ourselves without him. That we need Jesus and the Church to help us build our house properly so that it will not collapse when the wind and rain come. We must have humility to understand that the ways of the world, although attractive and enticing, can not bring us complete peace, security, and fulfillment. We also must know that we can not even find complete happiness in another human being or relationship; that only God can bring us true joy and fulfillment.
We then frame our house with prayer, the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation, fasting, scripture and spiritual reading, and good works. It is good to remember the tripod of piety, study, and action, all of which are essential for living a truly Christian life. Although life is busy, it is essential to set aside time for prayer and reflection daily and to incorporate some sacrifice and service into our lives.
Love God and Others
A final step in building our strong spiritual house is to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God, in love and communion with him and others. When we sincerely attempt to follow the Commandments and the Beatitudes, we learn how to follow the most important commandment, love, which Jesus instructed us to observe: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. (Matt 22:37-40)
Treasure in Heaven
The alternative to building on the foundation of Christ is to be unprepared, weak and vulnerable when the trials and difficulties of life come: “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matt 7:27) We build on sand when we follow the ways of the world – materialism, secularism, and seeking oneself above all. This leads to confusion, discord, and resulting unhappiness. We are clinging to things that are not eternal and, therefore, will not last. As scripture tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matt 6:19-21) Our house will collapse and be destroyed when we are not clinging to Christ, listening to his words, and obeying them. What can we do today to begin to construct a house that is strong, solid, and can withstand any storm that life throws at us?
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