ORDINARY 9 (A)
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. – Mt. 7: 24
Jesus is making a conscious pun. A frequently used metaphor for God in the Old Testament (especially in the Psalms) is “rock.” It conveys the idea of an unshakeable, steadfast love. So what our Lord is really saying here is those people (be it an individual or a group) who build their lives on God will be able to withstand the storms of life.
However, weathering the storms of life is not the primary point. Indeed, Jesus begins with a warning: if we merely cling to Jesus like a life preserver, he will not recognize us when judgment comes. We must learn to do the will of the Father for ourselves. Merely hearing His teaching is no substitute for personal engagement. Crying “Lord, Lord,” does not replace individual responsibility.
So hearing the Word & doing nothing else is to deceive ourselves. But how do we do the Word? There are two aspects:
1) We must look into the mirror that is Christ’s teaching, & not forget what we see. His authoritative teaching is easily forgotten, but doers of the Word remember it.
2) We must be able to look into the perfect law of liberty & not be coerced by circumstances. If so, we will not simply react to whatever is happening, for we will be capable of responding “out of kind.” We can do good when evil is perpetrated on us. We can love when we are hated & extend peace when we are under attack. This law of liberty is not easily engaged. If it is to define the way we are in the world, we must persevere. But if we do, blessedness flows. It is this blessedness that enables us to withstand the storms of life.
We withstand because we cannot be reduced by the storm. We are even capable of gratitude in the face of dying. I’ll never forget a lady in a hospital where I was chaplain. She was terminally ill & about to be sent home to be with her family in her waning days. When I approached her bedside, she said, “The doctors give me two weeks to live. I’m so grateful to God for allowing me to know the number of my days.”
That is what I call doing the Word. I have no doubt that our Lord recognized her. Storm-proofing, you see, means doing the spiritual work that can move us from being mere hearers of the Word to being doers of the Word. Lent is one of those opportunities that the Church gives us to help us advance in doing just that. Let us not fail to grasp that opportunity. It will make all the difference in the world, not just for us, but for those who come into contact with us. AMEN!