Thursday, December 4 ~ First Week in the Season of Advent Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Holy Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Meditation: In the ancient world a strong city, an impregnable fortress, and a secure house were built on solid rock because they could withstand the forces of nature and foe alike. Isaiah speaks of God as an “everlasting rock” (Is. 26:4). He is the rock of refuge and deliverance (Psalm 18:2) and the rock in whom there is no wrong (Psalm 92:15). Scripture warns that destruction will surely come to those who place their security in something other than God and his kingdom. Jesus’ parables invite us to stake our lives on the coming of his kingdom or face the consequences of being unprepared when the day of testing and destruction will surely come.

Prayer: Grant, we pray, O Lord, that we may be helped by the prayers of the Priest Saint John Damascene, so that the true faith, which he excelled in teaching, may always be our light and our strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Contemplation: When Jesus told the story of the builders he likely had the following proverb in mind: “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever” (Proverbs 10:25). What’s the significance of the story for us? The kind of foundation we build our lives upon will determine whether we can survive the storms that are sure to come. Builders usually lay their foundations when the weather and soil conditions are at their best. It takes foresight to know how a foundation will stand up against adverse conditions. Building a house on a flood plain, such as a dry river-bed, is a sure bet for disaster! Jesus prefaced his story with a warning: We may fool humans with our speech, but God cannot be deceived. He sees the heart as it truly is – with its motives, intentions, desires, and choices (Psalm 139:2). There is only one way in which a person’s sincerity can be proved, and that is by one’s practice. Fine words can never replace good deeds. Our character is revealed in the choices we make, especially when we are tested. Do you cheat on an exam or on your income taxes, especially when it will cost you? Do you lie, or cover-up, when disclosing the truth will cause you injury or embarrassment? A true person is honest and reliable before God, one’s neighbor and oneself. His or her word can be counted on. If you heed God’s word and live according to it then you need not fear when storms assail you. God will be your rock and your refuge. Is your life built upon the sure “rock” of Jesus Christ? Do you listen to and embrace the word of the Lord as if your life depended on it? If not, what’s holding you back?