Building on Rock, Twelfth Thursday (II), June 26, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette’s Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass for a Priest on the (15th) Anniversary of Ordination
June 26, 2014
2 Kings 24:8-17, Ps 79, Mt 7:21-29

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus concludes his most extensive homily on living in his kingdom by his distinctive Christian way of life by helping us to resolve not just to know about it but to do it. He tells us that the one who will enter into his kingdom is not the one who refers to him as Lord, not the one who prophesies, or exorcizes or works miracles in his name, but the one “who does the will of my Father in heaven.” He calls us to listen to his words and act on them, a move he compares to a wise man’s building his own on a solid foundation that will remain firm when tested by rains, floods and gale force winds. To build our life on any other foundation than him, that the life he has indicated to us by his words, is to build on sand that will not hold up during a storm.
  • Jesus, of course, was a tekton and the foster-son of a tekton, a construction worker. He knew that in the Holy Land some seeing a smooth sandy bed in the dry season found it a nice easy place to build, rather than a jagged series of rocks, but when the rains would come all of the water and the howling winds moving from the Mediterranean toward the Sea of Galilee would come into that plain and wash away a house. It’s a reminder to us that sometimes the foundation we are building our life on seems smooth and easy, but if God is not really the foundation, we’re setting ourselves up for ruin.
  • He wants us to build our life on what he has revealed to us in the Sermon on the Mount, as we’ve been discussing over the last two and a half weeks. It’s not enough for us to pass a quiz on the Beatitudes. We must, with God’s help, become poor in spirit, meek, peacemaking, and pure of heart; we, like Jesus, must love others enough to more when they are physically or spiritually in pain, we must hunger and thirst for holiness, we must be willing to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus. We must really become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We must live the seven antitheses Jesus announced, not hating others, not lusting, not divorcing and remarrying, being truthful always, reconciling with brothers and sisters, not seeking vengeance, loving our enemies and being good and praying to those who persecute us. We must refuse to serve mammon and to seek after material goods but seek first the kingdom of God and his holiness. Not to do so is foolishly to build the house of our life out of cardboard on a foundation of quicksand.
  • Today Jesus calls us to examine whether our lives are really built on the words he has taught us, whether we’re really living in the way God intends. Many of us “sort of” live by Jesus’ words. We’ll put “some” of them into practice. But it would honestly be an exaggeration to say our entire life is built on them. As Jesus says in his images at the beginning of today’s Gospel, It’s not enough to call to him in prayer, by crying out  “Lord, Lord”; it’s not enough for us to spread his word by “prophesying in his name”; it’s not enough for us to some obviously good deeds, to cast out demons or do many deeds of power in his name; he wants us to put these words into practice, to be his full-time disciple, his full-time follower, his full-time friend, to know him much more intimately than a loving husband and wife know each other. Otherwise he’ll say, as he mentions at the end of today’s Gospel, “I never knew you!” We get to know him by living together with him, by keeping a holy communion of life and love.
  • This is something that the Jews around the year 600 BC didn’t get, as we see in the first reading with the Jews. Even after they had sealed once again their Covenant with the Lord under King Josiah as we saw yesterday, they eventually rebelled against under King Jehoiachin. Even though they were still going through the motions of the faith, they were building their lives on “evil” as the Second Book of Kings chronicles  rather than on God. And in 597 the storms came in the form of Nebuchadnezzar and his troops from Babylon, they blew and buffeted against the house of Israel and it collapsed and was ruined, with everyone being deported into captivity in Babylon.
  • There are two applications we can make today to Jesus’ teaching. The first is with regard to the Fortnight for Freedom. What is the foundation of our nation? Are we going to build it as one nation under God like our founding fathers did, are we going to build on the inalienable rights we’ve received as an endowment from our Creator or are we going to build our lives on the whims of the opinions of justices, executive orders of presidents, poll-driven analyses of legislators, and the preferences of celebrities? Are we going to build on the pro-life principle that everyone has a right to live, or on the pro-choice understanding that certain people who are older, bigger, richer, and more powerful should have the right to choose to end your life if they don’t “want” you? Are we going to build on the foundation of healthy marriages understood according to what God has revealed and human reason has, until a couple of decades ago, always recognized, the fruitful union of a man and a woman for life, or are we going to build it just on an understanding that marriage involves only the sexual attractions and affections of adults regardless of whether they’re ordered or disordered, regardless of whether their arrangements are good for kids, regardless of whether they serve a public good? Are we going to build on the common good and self-sacrifice or, to quote Pope Francis, on the “golden calf” of the idolatry of money that marginalizes children and the elderly? Are we going to build on respect for conscience — which ultimately means to allow people to follow what they perceive to be the will of God in their life —  or on the will to power of those in power, treating their positive law as if it’s divine law?
  • Our country was built by our founding fathers on the rock of judeo-Christian principles, but like with a lot of recent construction, we’re not building as we once did to last for centuries. We’re building to satisfy our pleasures in the present moment rather than for the future. Kids are our future and we’re not defending their interests in strongly promoting that every single child be raised in a home with a committed (married) mother and father because we’re obsessed in allowing adults to have the legal and cultural permission to be irresponsible. We’re not educating them in virtue, but the “values based” training we’re given does not correspond to the values based training that made our nation great.  These are very important questions that we need to be confronting during this Fortnight for Freedom, as we pray, fast, study and give witness with regard to the incursions against religious freedom that are growing more and more. These are not academic questions. We’re foolish if we think that building on weak foundations won’t come back to haunt us. We need to build on the truth, on personal and civic virtue. Storms will come. Nebuchadnezzars will come. Jesus is today calling us to build wisely.
  • The second application today is to vocations and specifically to the vocation of the priesthood. The priesthood is a response to a call of God and an attempt to do God’s will and build one’s life on Christ. Most vocations come from families, and parishes, and Catholic schools that prioritize hearing and doing God’s will, and I rejoice that I was raised in such a seminary on Dana Street in Lowell, MA, with my parents as co-rectors. It made saying yes to God possible. I first heard the call at daily Mass when I was 4, seeing elderly Fr. Jon Cantwell celebrating Mass with devotion, thinking that if were tall enough to look into the chalice I’d see coagulated blood, observing him gingerly walk down the steps with his terrible arthritis with God in his hands and give God to other people. I thought that the priest was the luckiest person in the world, capable of holding God and giving him to others. That’s the day I asked for the vocation to be a priest. Later, when I was in college, I discovered that a vocation is a calling from God and that even though I wanted to serve as a priest, that that doesn’t mean I have a vocation. So for two-and-a-half years I prayed in discernment and God didn’t give me my definitive call to the priesthood until I realized that the priesthood — like any vocation in the Church, including to marriage or religious life — is based on a prior vocation, the universal call to holiness. It was only when I saw that my most fundamental vocation was to become a saint that Jesus allowed me to hear my call within that call.
  • Jesus calls no one just to be a priest. He calls a man to be a holy priest, one who does the will of God the Father in heaven, one who builds his entire life on God’s word. When priest die, the danger is that they’ll say to Jesus at their judgment, “Did I not cry out to you, ‘Lord, Lord’ in prayer each day? Did I not preach long homilies in your name? Did I not cast the devil from souls in the confessional in your name? Did I not do many charitable deeds personally and pastorally in your name?,” only to hear Jesus say in response, “I never knew you,” because they hadn’t really built their entire life on him so that everything they did, and not just the celebration of the sacraments, would be in persona Christi. St. John Chrysostom once said that the roads of hell are lined with the skulls of priests who were not faithful to God and to their vocations to holiness. The sacred calling of a priest is not a free pass to a choice seat at the eternal wedding banquet. Jesus says, “To whom more is given, more is to be expected,” and the sacramental powers given to a priest, the intimate collaboration and knowledge Jesus expects between him and priests, puts the priest under a higher expectations for holiness. So please pray for me and all my brother priests, especially my four classmates with whom I was ordained 15 years ago today, Fr. David Sharland, Fr. Darius Kalinowski, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk and Fr. Timothy Driscoll, that we may be faithful to God and to you and become those holy priests God wants and you deserve.
  • There have been many ways in which I haven’t yet fully responded to Jesus’ calling, to the will of God for me for his people, to building my whole life on him. But one way I have and so many of my brother priests have is our fidelity to the command of the Lord Jesus to “do this in memory of me.” Every day since my ordination 5,480 days ago (with the exception of Good Friday when there is no Mass), I have gone up to the altar of God, to the God who gives joy to my youth, and celebrated Mass in his memory. 7,852 times I have experienced that the priest is indeed the luckiest man in the world, capable of holding God in his hands as he becomes incarnate under the appearances of bread and wine, and having the joy to give God to others. To build our life on the rock means to build our life on Christ, the Word-made-flesh, the root and center of priestly life and the source and summit of any life that is truly Christian. Building our life on Christ is not a one time action, but a perpetual task to make him the cornerstone of every day he gives us, and that’s what we do at daily Mass. I thank you for joining me today for this Mass. In Psalm 116, we ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me?” The inspired response is, “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” As we raise up that chalice and call on the Lord’s name, let us ask him for all the graces he knows we need not only to call out “Lord, Lord,” not only to prophesy, exorcise, heal and love in his name, but to do all of this in a holy communion with Him according to his will, so that we might, together with him, withstand the storms of life and come with Him to the eternal house that God the Father has built for us on Christ’s saving work.

The readings for today’s Mass are: 

Reading 1
2 KGS 24:8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.
His mother’s name was Nehushta,
daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
He did evil in the sight of the LORD,
just as his forebears had done.At that time the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
himself arrived at the city
while his servants were besieging it.
Then Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother,
his ministers, officers, and functionaries,
surrendered to the king of Babylon, who,
in the eighth year of his reign, took him captive.
And he carried off all the treasures
of the temple of the LORD and those of the palace,
and broke up all the gold utensils that Solomon, king of Israel,
had provided in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had foretold.
He deported all Jerusalem:
all the officers and men of the army, ten thousand in number,
and all the craftsmen and smiths.
None were left among the people of the land except the poor.
He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon,
and also led captive from Jerusalem to Babylon
the king’s mother and wives,
his functionaries, and the chief men of the land.
The king of Babylon also led captive to Babylon
all seven thousand men of the army,
and a thousand craftsmen and smiths,
all of them trained soldiers.
In place of Jehoiachin,
the king of Babylon appointed his uncle Mattaniah king,
and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 79:1B-2, 3-5, 8, 9

R. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

Gospel
MT 7:21-29

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.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’“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.”When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.