BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [2 KGS 24:8-17; PS 79:1-5, 8-9; MT 7:21-29 ]
Life is often one of regrets. When we look back at our life, we wish we could live it differently and not made those stupid decisions and those foolish mistakes. Parents regret that they did not raise their children rightly. Couples regret that they had taken each other for granted and thus resulting in the breakdown in communication. Bosses wished that they had better managed their staff or their businesses. Regardless, we all have our regrets.
We can be sure that the King of Judah regretted too. They did not listen to the prophets’ warning of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and their captivity. They found it too difficult to accept the prophecies of Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets. They did not even learn from the lesson of the Kingdom of Israel which collapsed under the Assyrians. And so it was their turn. We read of the tragic consequences. The city was besieged and was conquered eventually by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. “Jehoiachin king of Judah surrendered to the king of Babylon, he, his mother, his officers, his nobles and his eunuchs, and the king of Babylon took them prisoner. The latter carried off all the treasures of the Temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace.” Indeed, why did it happen? Simply because they did not build the kingdom on the right foundation It is true for us too. If our life is in a mess and our family has broken down, it is because of sin.
We all know what the future would be like if we continue to persist in our sins and yet we continue because we are stubborn and rebellious. Like Israel and Judah, we will be swept away when the storms come as the Lord warned us. This happens simply also because most of us who are believers are living a routine faith. Just because we are baptized and go to church every Sunday, we think we are saved. This is what the Lord will say to us. “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil man!” A routine faith with superstitious practices and rituals cannot save us from destruction by the Evil One. We will be swept away when the temptations of the Evil One and the World and the Flesh come to us. That is why we must build a strong foundation to resist the Evil One, the kind of foundation that can withstand the trials of life, disappointments, tragedies and the temptations of the Evil One.
We must build a strong foundation in God. He must come first in our lives. Jesus leads us and teaches us how to grow in our relationship with the Lord. He provides us the foundation. As St Peter says, “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pt 2:4f) Christ, the Word of God in person is the only rock that can save us from the delusions of the world. Unless we are grounded in our personal relationship with the Lord, we will not have the strength to resist the trials of life. It is our neglect of our personal relationship with the Lord that has resulted in us being tempted and misled.
So we must begin by listening to His words. We must read the scriptures often and daily. “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against the house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.” Listening, meditating, studying and sharing the Word of God is key to a deeper and intimate relationship with the Lord. We are weak in our faith because we follow the values of the world instead of Christ, simply because we listen too much to the propaganda of the world and the social media rather than reading the Word of God to nourish our faith. Although we are baptized we behave exactly like the Jews who paid lip service to their faith. It is not enough just to be a member of the church or be baptized unless we are imbued with the Word of God.
Secondly, it is not enough to listen to His Word; we must obey the Word of God. This is because Jesus is more than a prophet. He is the Word of God in person. In today’s gospel, Jesus demands full obedience. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell: and what a fall it had!” But this where many Christians fail to understand. They pick and choose those teachings that they like and discard what they do not agree with. St Paul praised the Thessalonians, “the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Th 2:13) Indeed, the listeners recognized that Jesus truly spoke the Word of God.
Thirdly, accepting His Lordship is another way of saying we will obey the word of God. Doing God’s will is what ultimately counts. The people only wanted Jesus to perform miracles for them. They wanted to be healed, to be fed and to be liberated from Rome. But they did not accept His Lordship over their lives. At the Garden of Gethsemane, He accepted God’s will. At the cross, He fulfilled God’s will completely. Jesus was true to His love and faith in His Father. But we pay only lip service. “Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes.”
Indeed, acting on the Word of God is a test of the sincerity of our love for the Lord. The difference between a wise man and a fool; a true Catholic and a nominal Catholic is whether he or she lives out what he or she believes and worships. Our sincerity is seen not just in our words but more importantly in our actions. It is in the living out of the gospel, the way we conduct ourselves with people, with our subordinates, with the powerful and the influential and with our domestic helpers and migrant workers that show how much we believe in the teaching of Christ. Our character will reveal who we are and the choices we have made. If we cheat, lie, steal, hoard and slander others because of jealousy and envy, certainly we are not true disciples of Christ. We can be like the scribes and deceive people by our pious gestures in prayers, sweet words and involvement in church activities. But God judges us by what we do. He looks at our hearts.
Fourthly, we need to ensure that our relationship with God grows from strength to strength, until, as St Paul wrote, we come to comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18f) We must come to know Christ more and more. St Paul said, “More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:8, 10-11) That is why we must continue to build our relationship on the rock of Christ through a life of constant prayer, scripture reading and reflection, receiving the Eucharist and celebrating the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. Only laying this foundation can help us to weather the storms of life that will come when we are most unprepared. Let us not repeat the mistake of the Israelites who did not know God and disobeyed Him. We know and we obey!
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.