Today’s Gospel gives us the concluding words of Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. He tells us that if we incorporate into our lives the lessons of his famous sermon we will remain secure, like a man who has built his house on rock.
In the Gospels Jesus sometimes clarifies his lesson by taking an example from what wise and foolish people do. His lesson will register more deeply with us if we use our imagination on reconstructing that example he gives us. So, here he asks us to picture a wise man building his house on rock, while a foolish man built on sand. It would help us if we could draw on our memories of house building when we went about it the right or the wrong way.
Last spring I published a book that had a story about building a house on rock. Let me repeat my story.
I was in Sokcho on the east coast of Korea in June of 1954 when we had a hurricane that washed out every steel and concrete bridge for a hundred miles of our coast. In the weeks leading up to the storm I gave a little help to two boys Paul and Peter who built a small two room house for themselves and their wives. At eight corners we dug three feet holes for end posts, and we dropped a large boulder into each hole for the four-by-fours to rest on.
Peter had to go off to his wife’s family’s house to have her baby while I gave a little help to Paul thatching the roof. The storm washed away all the houses in the village of Peter’s wife, and she had the baby on the mountain side. But the house we had just completed held itself against the storm because it was built on those large stones. We had a party after Peter and his wife brought the baby back for Baptism.
Jesus said we would be like people building on rock if we obeyed the lessons of his Sermon on the Mount. The lesson covers chapters five, six, and seven in Matthew’s Gospel. Let me summarize Our Lord’s teaching in those chapters.
Chapter Five tells us ways in which Christians must go beyond the teachings of Moses. We must keep not only the Commandments, we must live by the Beatitudes as well. We must avoid not only murder, but murderous thoughts; not only adultery, but adulterous thoughts.
Chapter Six tells that instead of making displays of ourselves praying and doing good deeds to make a good impression on people, we should do these things in secret just for the purpose of pleasing the heavenly Father, and growing in intimacy with him. That will have us building up such a trusting relationship with the Father that we will have no fears or insecurities.
Chapter Seven takes up our relations with others. Rather than just loping along the broad road, making the same mistakes everyone makes, we should enter through the narrow gate. We don’t judge others, so that we will not be judged.