9th Sunday Ordinary Time A

Solidly on a Rock

Build your life on a sound foundation, our Lord tells us in today’s gospel parable. Otherwise you will be unable to withstand the floods of trial.

His caution about erecting one’s home on bedrock reminds me of a building project in 1917 that illustrated the same lesson. Here it was not a case of house-building but of bridge-building – the building of a bridge over the waters of the Genesee River at Charlotte, New York.

A bridge at this spot near the river-mouth had been needed for many years; but action had long been deferred because the river, though not wide, was navigable to large ships. Finally, the decision was reached to erect a bascule bridge – one whose floor was split across at the middle so that both sides could be lifted to accommodate tall ships. But major problems faced the engineers. They saw that it would be easy to root the bridge on the west side, since this was a rocky hill. However, the east bank was lower and swampy, and borings showed that the bedrock was down 110 feet. At first they thought it would suffice if they sank wooden piles here to a depth of 70 feet. This didn’t work at all. The speedy current soon undermined the piles and made them lean four feet out of plumb.

Finally, they had to resort to the costlier method of sinking a huge broad pipe or caisson down to bedrock. Then they brought in “sand hogs” – special workmen who would shovel all the earth out of the tube. The caisson was then filled with concrete – a great 110 foot column of cement resting in rock. It has supported the bridge well to the present day.

How important it is for parents to teach their children the basic principles to live by! When adults ruin their lives, it is often because they have never understood what life is all about.

True, even children well coached by word and example in religious principles can, when they grow up, flout those principles. There is no guarantee against human folly. Still, you will notice that when these youthful rebels settle down, they often remember and appreciate what their parents taught them. You can even observe them teaching their own children these bedrock wisdoms, remarking as they do so, “As my mother always used to say…”

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q478: The Readings today make me concerned that God is just like a Big Bear, standing there and telling me what I must do and think. It also concerns me that some preachers might be doing that, also.

On the contrary, God in his love is giving you absolutely total freedom in making your own free will choices! From the depths of that love he also lets you know what will happen, based on either choice. But the choice is still yours! He will never, ever force you to choose the way that he already knows is the only morally good way. Remember, God is omniscient and already knows the consequences of all choices.

Take the first reading, for example (Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32). It is really a simple matter. There are always two choices for everything – one is morally good, one is morally bad. As God knows, one involves the path to eternal life, one involves the path to eternal death. So not only does Moses relay God’s word about these two choices, he also urges them to freely “choose life” (Dt 30:19).

In the Gospel today (Matt 7:21-27) Jesus confronts his listeners with a similar choice. He is in the middle of his “Sermon on the Mount,” and he is challenging the people with the true meaning of discipleship. You can just “listen” to his words, and stop there. Or, you can “listen” to his words AND “act” upon those words of wisdom. The latter is the choice of true discipleship, and is the way that leads to eternal life. The one who simply “listens” without living out the gospel message will discover that they have not been doing the will of the Father. All of their actions will come to nothing, as fleeting as Sand castles that disappear with the tide.

Regarding the message of preachers — they are simply passing on this same wisdom of God. No preacher would force a choice upon you; in fact, it is impossible to do so. But the responsibility of that preacher is to pass on to you the challenge of Jesus’ words, and the scriptural warnings about the consequences if you make immoral choices.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The “law of the gospel” requires us to make the decisive choice between the “two ways” and to put into practice the words of the Lord (CCC #1970). You discern God’s will through prayer (CCC #2826).

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Living Faith
Today’s readings seem to be contradictory. Paul tells us that we are saved by faith alone, but Jesus and Deuteronomy seem to put the emphasis on what we do or don’t do. Deuteronomy lays a curse on those who do not keep the commandments and Jesus tells us that those who do not do God’s will are destined for hell but there is really no contradiction. Paul is speaking of those who think they can earn their way to heaven by legalistic observance of the law. Jesus and Paul speak of a living faith that is not just words but tries to put faith into loving practice.

Lord Jesus you came to share in our human life so that we may come to have a small share in your divine life. Send your Spirit so that we may not to presume on our own strength, but instead, to be assured, in our weakness of the power of your gifts to love as you have loved us.

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