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Of Sand and Rock

The Gospel passage for our Eucharist today represents the final words of the first discourse of St. Matthew's Gospel, commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout these three chapters, St. Matthew has been reinterpreting the Law or the Torah for his disciples. In so doing, Jesus has been accentuating the spirit rather than the letter of the Law. This is not to say that he abrogated any of the tenets of the Law. Rather he asked his disciples to go the extra mile, to stretch beyond the bare requirements. For instance, while the Law stipulates that we must love our neighbor, Jesus has asked us to love everyone, even our enemies.

In concluding, Jesus tells his disciples that it is not enough simply to hear the word of God. We must put it into practice. Prayer is an integral part of our spiritual life. However, it is not enough simply to call out to the Lord in prayer. We must also act.

He concludes with the famous parable about building on a firm foundation. This parable always reminds me of an experience I remember from my teen years. Twice a year, I would pass through Union Station on my way to and from the high school seminary and my first two years of college. For six years, I had to walk around a construction site that seemed to lie directly in my path as I changed trains. Each time I arrived at the station, I expected to see the new building towering over me. However, even though I saw the construction workers working in this large hole every time I passed, for six years that hole remained nothing but a bevy of activity. Years later, I realized that they had been laying the foundation for one of the tallest buildings that now graces the skyline of Chicago, the Willis (formerly, Sears) Tower. Once the foundation was completed, the building seemed to stretch toward the sky in a few months. The foundation took years.

When I stop to pray with Jesus' words about building on sand and building on rock, I realize how important the foundation is. Faith's foundation is rarely seen just as the foundation of a building is rarely seen. Yet it is the most important part of the whole. So I believe Jesus is asking us to make Him our foundation, to take His words and put them into action in my day to day living. "How firm a foundation is Jesus, the Lord!"

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