Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr
Building on Rock

Readings: Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16 or 16:6b-12, 15-16; Psalm 106:1b-2, 3-4a, 4b-5; Matthew 7:21-29

Why, we may wonder, would someone be so foolish as to build a house on sand rather than on solid rock? It simply doesn’t make sense. And yet we probably know from experience how difficult it is to follow Jesus’ instructions. We know how difficult it is to enter through the narrow gate, to walk the hard road, to do the will of the Father, to build our lives solely on the solid rock of God’s word. Indeed, our first reading illustrates for us how even someone no less than Abram, our father in faith, found it difficult.

We know that God had earlier promised Abram a multitude of descendants, as many as the stars in the sky. But it’s already been ten long years since Abram settled in the land of Canaan. And God doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to even begin fulfilling that promise. Abram and Sarai remain childless. How are they to build their house on the rock of God’s promises? They’re not getting any younger. Should they not try to hurry things along, try to take matters into their own hands? After all, doesn’t God help those who help themselves?

We are then given an account of the results of their misguided efforts. We first see a lack of respect for Hagar’s human dignity. She is used and valued merely for her ability to produce an heir. And, quite ironically, this treatment of her as an object, this valuation of her solely in terms of her fertility, backfires on Sarai, who now feels the humiliating insecurity of her barrenness. The story thus begins to degenerate into a cycle of violence and alienation, of pain and suffering. In other words, rains come down, floods rise, gales blow and strike Abram’s house-building project. And it threatens to collapse with a mighty crash.

Yet, in all this, God remains faithful. Not only does God reach out a compassionate hand to save Hagar and the son in her womb, but God also continues to remain faithful to Abram and Sarai. God chooses to bless the fruit of their folly and, in so doing, preserves for them the possibility of once more building their house on the solid rock of God’s promises to them.

Our own house-building projects will likely come in different shapes and sizes. Even so, are we not all called to recognize and trust in God’s guiding hand?

How are we being asked to build our houses on solid rock today?

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