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.
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 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!"
Today's readings make a thought-provoking contrast. In Isaiah it is God who builds our city, setting up its walls and ramparts to protect it; in the Gospel it is we who build our own house solidly, setting it on rock. While Isaiah summons into the new city all who trust in the Lord, Matthew has Jesus promise salvation to the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. The prophetic text emphasises faith while the Gospel stresses action! There is a line in the passage from Isaiah to harmonise these divergent views : "Our Lord is an eternal rock."
Insistence upon trust in the Lord is a continuous theme with Isaiah. Today he 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.
We can identify with the weather image that Jesus uses in today's gospel, "Rains came down, floods rose, gales blew." Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Apart from weather storms, we can also be struck by storms of a different kind no matter where in the world we live. The church has been through quite a storm in recent years, and the effects are still felt. As individuals, we can find ourselves battling against the elements of life, as we struggle in one shape or form, for one reason or another.
Jesus declares that difficult times will indeed come for all of us. The real issue is how we are equipped to deal with them. When the storms come will we find ourselves tossed about helplessly, or will we be able to withstand the storm and move through and beyond it? Jesus wants to be our rock when the storm comes. If we listen to his words and try to act on those words we will remain standing even when storms break around us. Jesus brings us back to basics, the doing of God's will as he has revealed it for us. If we keep on returning to that focal point, the Lord will see to it that we endure, regardless of the strength of the storm. [MH]