Sermons

Summary: Jesus challenged His disciples–and that means not just the original ones but us today–to build His Church on solid rock

Thursday of the 12th Week in Course 2020

Logos is Solid Rock

Rock or sand? Where do you build your house? On a solid foundation or on shifting sand? The listeners who heard Jesus’s words here probably had or knew someone who had built on a poor subsurface. After all, the region of Palestine is in an active geological area called the Dead See Transform Fault System, and is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake is a bad time to have a house with a poor foundation.

But when the term “house” appears in the sacred Scriptures, twenty-five times or more it is in the phrase “house of David,” and almost as many times in the phrase “house of Jacob.” We see it in some of the most crucial texts of the word of God. Three months after the deliverance from Egypt, the Hebrew people, descendants of the patriarch Jacob, came to the mountain of Sinai. Moses went up the mountain and heard the voice of God: “tell the people of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” When the holy prophets spoke the word of God, admonishing the people to put aside their idols and foul practices and follow the law and right worship of God, they spoke to the house of Jacob. And when the archangel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin in Nazareth, that angel told her the child to be born of her, espoused to Joseph of the House of David, the child to be called Jesus “will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

The house of Jacob and the house or kingdom of David was built on the solid rock of God’s law, of right worship and right living in the days of King David, but beginning with his son Solomon, little by little that rock was replaced by sand. One grain at a time, or at times one cart or truckload at a time, his successors built on self-serving and selfishness. They went back to the disgusting practices of the original people of Palestine, the foul worship of Moloch and Baal and Astarte. And so, as we see in today’s first reading, they were invaded time and time again and eventually swept from their land by Assyrians and Babylonians. Even when they returned to their land from Babylon, they became turned in on themselves, so that their temple was not a bright beacon summoning the whole world to true worship of the true God, to right living under His law, but, as Jesus said when He purified it, “a den of thieves.”

So Jesus challenged His disciples–and that means not just the original ones but us today–to build His Church on solid rock, the rock of Word and Sacrament, of the twin law of love and our daily or weekly Eucharistic sacrifice. And, in that marvelous pun we find in Matthew’s Gospel, on the human rock of Peter, vicar of Christ on earth.

But this is not a once done thing. The Church’s one foundation is the person of Jesus Christ. The Word is a facet of that foundation because Jesus is the Logos, the Word of God. The Eucharist is a facet of that foundation because Jesus is the true Bread of Life, made present in the Eucharistic elements. The pope is a facet of that foundation because he is anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the visible vicar or steward of the invisible Head, Jesus our Lord. The Church is truly semper fidelis–always faithful–but part of that fidelity involves a constant introspection and a frequent cleansing. The Church is made up of weak and sinful humans and so is semper reformanda, always in need of reformation and renewal.

There are in the Church’s history several key points of reformation. We may all be familiar with two–in the thirteenth century, a young Italian wastrel named Francis experienced a personal conversion and had a vision of Jesus telling him to rebuild his Church, and the twin Franciscan and Dominican movements catalyzed one of the most spectacular eras of reformation of that millennium. In the sixteenth century, a Spanish soldier named Ignatius, in the midst of the time in which the Church was being torn apart by the Protestant revolution, heard the call of God and began a reformation that energized a missionary Church that evangelized not just Europe, but the whole world.

So today, as the terrible pandemic causes our secular society, built on the quicksand of self-will and materialism, is shaken to its insubstantial foundation by a sudden realization of the reality of sickness and death, a similar reformation must begin. And it is beginning. All at once, billions of people are confronted with their own morbidity and mortality, with the instability of the financial and material assets they have worked a lifetime to build. It’s all running through their fingers like sand through an hourglass. They realize that their personal center, their heart, is fixed on transitory things–pleasure, power, honor–and they need something real, permanent, substantial. They need the Word of God and the sacraments of salvation that will give a stable foundation of the rest of their lives. They need Jesus Christ, experienced in the new House of Israel, the new House of the new David. No matter what happens today, tomorrow, or next year, that realization must give us confidence. Let’s pray that all the world together will soon address our Lord: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for thy name's sake!”

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