Building Our House on Solid Rock
Thursday December 4, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 26:1-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:21, 24-27)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear the song that is to be sung in the land of Judah (which, of course, is the area of Jerusalem) and that is: A strong city have we; God sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. So we have this city that God establishes, on the one hand; and then, on the other hand, we have the places that try to exalt themselves, that is, the cities where they try to build it all up on their own accord. And we are told that He humbles those in high places. He tumbles it to the ground, levels it to the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the poor. We see these two different ways of being able to build a place, whether it is a house or a city, or whether it is just simply to look at our own lives. We can either allow the Lord to be the One who builds us up and protects us – it is the Lord Himself who will provide for everything that we need – or we can try to do it our own way.
It is the difference that Our Lord tells us in the Gospel. On one hand, we have the people who just simply want to say, “Lord, Lord,” that is, “I believe in Jesus but I don’t follow anything that He teaches unless it’s convenient to me.” And then there are those who act upon the words of the Lord, those who do the Will of God. Jesus tells us it is like two different houses that are being built. One is built solidly on rock, and it does not matter what happens with the winds and the rains, the house is built solidly – it is built on the Lord. Being “built on the Lord” means that it is a person who is seeking to do the Will of God, not someone who is giving lip service to God, but someone who is actually doing the Will of God, seeking out God’s Will in prayer, trying to do His Will in their day-to-day lives and growing in holiness, that is, being well founded on Jesus Christ, attempting to make their lives be transformed into the very Person of Jesus Christ, to conform themselves and to be transformed into Christ Himself.
On the other hand, He tells us about the house that is built on sand, that is, the one where we try to do it our own way. The Lord is making clear that there is no foundation there. It is shifting. It is unreliable. When the winds come and the rains pelt against the house, it is going to collapse because there is no foundation for it because we are trying to build our house on ourselves, on our own merits, on our own ability, on our own things that we think we have accomplished on our own. And what good are they? It is shifting sand because today we have one idea and tomorrow we have another. We keep shifting our house from one sand dune to the next and what is it going to stand on? Nothing.
And so the Lord is telling us very clearly that we have to have our house built on Him. He alone is the Rock. If our house is not built firmly on the rock of Jesus Christ, it is going to collapse. We can make our house look real nice in this life, but we are going to have to stand before the judgment seat of God. Our Lord Himself is the One who is going to judge us. And when the winds blow on that day and all that we can show is sand, what good is it going to do us? We will say, “But, Lord, didn’t I go to church? Didn’t I tell people Your Name? Didn’t I wear a crucifix? Didn’t I have a holy medal and a picture in my house?” He will say, “But you didn’t act upon anything. You didn’t try to live it out. You made it look good; you gave Me lip service. You did not act on My words and I tell you I do not know who you are.” So it is not enough to cry out, “Lord, Lord!” It is not enough to say, “I believe in God.” It is not enough to say, “I’m baptized into Jesus Christ.” It is to say, “If I believe these things and they are real” – and they are! – “then I’d better act upon them.” It would be like looking at your house and saying, “My house has termites. My house is on fire. My house is collapsing because the foundation is broken,” and just shrugging it off and saying, “Oh, well. I’ll just continue to sit here and watch TV,” and then not doing anything about fixing the house or putting out the fire or trying to do anything to assure that the house is not going to fall down. If you know there is a problem, you had better do something about it.
That is precisely what Our Lord is getting at. If the foundation is ourselves, we will collapse. If our foundation is Jesus Christ, we will survive. But again, that foundation cannot be lip service, it cannot be a façade; it has to be a true foundation. It means we have to dig in and we have to get to the very heart. And it means we have to live the faith we profess so that we are not merely crying out, “Lord, Lord,” but that we are seeking and doing the Will of God Who sends us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.