Homily for September 12th, 2015: Luke 6:43-49.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?" Jesus asks in today’s gospel. He is addressing people whose religious practice has no real foundations. He contrasts such people with those who, after hearing the Lord’s words, put them into practice in daily life. They are “like the man building a house” Jesus says, “who dug deep and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.” He goes on to contrast such a person with the superficially religious person “who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”
To build one's house without foundations means building our lives on things that are unstable and fleeting, things that cannot withstand the tests of time and the hazards of chance. What are such things? Money, success, fame, and even health and prosperity. None of those things are reliable or solid.
To build one's house on rock means to base our lives on things that are solid, enduring, things that cannot be carried away with life’s storms. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus says later in
Matthew’s gospel, “but my words
will not pass away.” (24:35) To build our house on rock means building our life
on God. Rock is one of the preferred biblical symbols for the God. “Trust in
the Lord forever,” we read in the prophet Isaiah, “for the Lord is an eternal rock.”
(26:4). The book Deuteronomy says the same: "He is the Rock; his deeds are
perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no
wrong; how just and upright he is." (32:4)
To build one's house on the rock means, therefore, living in the Church and not remaining on the fringe, at a distance, using the excuse that the Church is filled with hypocrisy, dishonesty. and sin. Of course it is! The Church is made up of sinners like ourselves.
Today's gospel starts with what seems a harsh message. For the first time Luke speaks about people who refer to Jesus as their Lord. But what good is it to cry out, "Lord, Lord," Jesus asks, when your works are not done for him but for your own glory? When we cry out "Lord," it should mean that we belong to him at all times, and not just as temporary acquaintances. When the Lord responds, “I never knew you; epart from me, you evildoers,” (a harsh message indeed) Jesus is really expressing his longing for people who are truly close to him in daily life. Those who do things in his name to be seen and honored, yet refuse to be in daily fellowship with him are fraudulent. Those who are deaf to the Word of God, who do not act upon it, and whose lives are not built upon God will be swept away when the storms of life descend.