Advent Week 1 – Thursday
Isaiah 26:1ff. A hymn of confidence in the Lord God “your everlasting rock”.
Matthew 7:21ff. Final section of the Sermon on the Mount: like a wise man who built his house on rock.
First Reading: Isaiah 26:1-6
On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.
Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-27
“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 then who hears 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 beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!”
Who shall build our city?
The biblical readings for this day set up a double movement. In Isaiah God builds the city, setting up its walls and ramparts to protect us; in the Gospel we build the house solidly, setting it on rock. While Isaiah summons into the new city those who trust in the Lord, Matthew has Jesus promise salvation to “the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. ” In this instance the Old Testament appears as the messenger of faith, and the New Testament stresses action! There is a line in the passage from Isaiah to harmonise these divergent views : “The Lord is an eternal rock. ”
Insistence upon trust in the Lord is a continuous motif throughout the prophecy of Isaiah. The classic statement occurs in chapter seven: Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Is. 7:14) It speaks from a time of crisis when Ahaz, King of Jerusalem, had no alternative but to trust in God. He was unable to muster an army and repel an invasion from the northern kingdom of Israel. It was immoral to appeal to Assyria for help and so become a vassal of this foreign power, losing their independence and gaining nothing in the long run. We, too, are faced with crises, at least at crucial moments of our lives, when to do anything would mean doing something immoral. We can see no good option or moral alternative. Isaiah warns and encourages us: “Be watchful and be tranquil; do not fear and do not let your courage fail. ” Later he repeats these words in a more meditative way: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies. (30:15)
In today’s reading it says: Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock. The Lord will surround us who have faith as he does the holy city with “walls and ramparts. ” And the Lord himself is that city. He is the rock which sustains us. He is the Holy One, enshrined within us. There is a clash of images here! It means that the Lord is behind and before us, around about us and within us, supporting us from beneath, glorifying us from above.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. ” And yet there are other moments in our life when we will be rightly condemned by God and our neighbours if we remain silent and motionless. There is an appointed time for everything. . . . a time to be born, and a time to die; . . . a time to be silent, and a time to speak. (Eccles 3:1, 7).
There is a time for action, when it simply is not enough to cry out: “Lord, Lord!” “Only the one,” Jesus says, “who does the will of my Father in heaven” “will enter the kingdom of God. ” To do nothing is like building a house on sandy ground. Once the rainy season sets in, the water will lash at the foundation and the house will collapse. Jesus says we should be “like the wise person who built his house on rock. ” We must act, but always through the strength and direction of the Lord, resting ourselves thoroughly upon Jesus. Only when each of our actions is directed by a conscious turning to the Lord for guidance, only when a sense of the Lord’s presence accompanies us in all that we do, only then will there be an integral wholeness about life. Everything will fit together firmly. No single action will be out of harmony with the others nor disrupt the peace of our lives.