Choosing Our Foundation

Thursday of Week 12 in Ordinary Time - Cycle I

Gen. 16:1-12, 15-16 & Mt. 7:21-29

Sometimes it's difficult to believe good news. We are so accustomed to disappointments and deceptions that when something wonderful is promised to us we react with a certain amount of scepticism. If the longed-for event is delayed, we begin to lose hope.

This must have been how Abraham felt. God had promised him that he would have a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham was a man of faith and although he and his wife Sarah were elderly he believed God's promise. The problem was that nothing seemed to be happening and as time went by he became anxious. What did God intend to do? How could it be possible for a couple their age to have a child? Then Sarah made a suggestion. Instead of waiting indefinitely for God to act they could take control of their lives if Abraham fathered a child by her servant Hagar. Did his faith waver when he agreed to his wife's proposition?

Almost immediately they regretted their decision. Hagar, having become pregnant, lost all respect for Sarah and began to be insolent and rebellious. Eventually Sarah drove her away, but God did not abandon Hagar, nor did He forget His promise to Abraham. In God's good time Sarah gave birth to a son.

This reading reminds us that we should rely on God, not on ourselves. Perhaps we cannot see where He is leading us, but we must not despair because He can bring good out of the most hopeless situation. He is our rock, the sure foundation on which we can build our lives. If we try to be architects of our own lives, thinking that we can manage without God, then we are building on sand. Let us put ourselves in His hands and trust Him, because He is the one who keeps His promises.

Jesus concluded His words of the Sermon on the Mount by saying that if we put His words into practice in our lives we are like the wise builder who built his house on rock, and if we don't heed His words we are like the foolish builder who built his house on sand. In the business of building our house, our life, the every day choices we make determine the foundation and shape of our house as they create an accurate picture of what we believe.

With so many voices telling us how to live our lives it can be hard to put Jesus' words into practice, being a wise person and building our house on the rock-solid foundation. The world tells us we must improve our self-esteem, but Jesus speaks to us of humility, self-sacrifice, and service to others before self. The world measures success in terms of financial gain and material possessions but Jesus spoke of how hard it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God and told the rich young man to sell his possessions and follow Him. The world praises those who gain position and power but Jesus advises us that if we follow Him we are to be as servants. The world urges us to look out for ourselves and our own, and put our own interests first but Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. The world through its governments regularly defines for its citizens who are their enemies and periodically justifies war against them but Jesus says we must love your enemies.

But when the storms of life come - recession and depression which take away the assurance of material wealth, changing tides of opinion which take away our self-importance and pride; illness and disease that take our vigour and beauty; wars that do not bring peace but inflict death and homelessness on innocent peoples - it is then we realise that the kingdom of this world is built on sand and cannot survive. Hard as it may seem, we must hear and put into practice Jesus' words, all of them, if we are to be as the wise person who built his life on the solid rock that will withstand the storms of life.

May God grant us the graces to be not only hearers but also doers of Your word.