Deuteronomy 11: 18, 26-28, 32
The Italian architect Bonnano Pisano began work on what would become his most famous project: a separately standing eight-story bell tower for the Cathedral of Pisa. This bell tower might not have attracted so much attention if it had been built on a solid foundation. Even with recent restorations, the top of the tower is displaced horizontally about twelve feet from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus was bringing to a close his Sermon on the Mount and wanted the people to go and do what he had just taught them. As usual, Jesus tells a story to back up what he was saying. The story is based on a house, a rock, and some sand.
Jesus is not teaching a parable about how to build our houses in protected areas. There are no storm-free zones in life. This is a parable about foundations, not avoiding the weather. When the pressure intensifies from all sides, the outcome is determined by the foundation we’re sitting on. Jesus helped the people to understand that God was not always going to be there to stop the rains, the floods, and the tornadoes from invading our lives. Nevertheless, Jesus expected the people to be careful about the priorities on which they built their lives. A bad decision in the foundation could prove disastrous when the pressures of life begin to mount.
A person who hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who builds with the right materials in the right location. Those who choose other ways are sand builders. There is the shifting sand of the false preachers and teachers. Don’t build on that. There is the shallow sand of TV. Learning about life from commercials or Jerry Springer is sand! Don’t build on that. There is the quicksand of self-righteousness. Endeavoring to live a sinless life, as your ticket to heaven, is sand. Don’t build on that.
Build your life on what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of revenge, build your life on reconciliation. Instead of being consumed by pornography and lust, build your life on respect and faithfulness. Instead of being evasive, tell the truth. Instead of hating your enemies, pray for them. Instead of just being outwardly religious, build your life on acts of kindness and true worship. Instead of dedicating your life to the accumulation of wealth, build on eternal values. Instead of worrying your way through life, build your life on a firm trust in the caring hand of God. Instead of always judging others, build your relationships on a loving acceptance. Instead of leveraging things in your favor and manipulating people to get what you want, build your life on seeking the Father’s Will.
You are building today. Hearing and reading Jesus’ words are not enough. We must do them. Divine truth is given not to satisfy idle curiosity, but to change lives and equip us for today and prepare us for eternity. Let us not be a Tower of Pisa.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.