Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
May 27, 2012
Solemnity of Pentecost
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Matthew 7:24
Often I am asked at Confirmation, “What advice do you have for young people being confirmed?” I want to answer that question now. The simple fact is that young people are engaged in building a house. The house is their own. It is the house of their lives. They don’t build it by themselves. At the beginning they have the help of parents, family, and teachers, but in the end, it is their project. So, again, I say young people are building a house that is all their own. How do we build our houses?
We all know that some of the most important teachings of Jesus are found in the Sermon on the Mount, which comprises Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I would like to quote some concluding verses of that important sermon of Jesus. “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” (Matthew 7:24-25). Anyone who wants to build his house must lay a foundation. That foundation must be Christ.
Think of those houses built on the coast after the recent hurricanes. They are built on pylons that not only rise several feet off the ground but also are sunk securely into the earth. There must be a strong foundation, and for our life that foundation is Christ. This is what Jesus means when he says that the wise man builds his house on rock. The rock is Jesus. The foundation doesn’t move from one side to the next. It is stable, positioned, firm, and will not move. The superstructure is indestructible.
Once a person has started to build on Christ the rock, then, like any good architect or contractor, he must have a plan. My grandfather was a contractor, and I remember when growing up my father would always recall my grandfather’s efficiency. He would say that when he built a house there was never a brick leftover. He had calculated exactly what he needed. That required a plan. Of course, I think my father exaggerated a bit, but the point is made. To have a plan, the person must be realistic. Jesus himself said, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?” (Luke 16:29). Otherwise, He says, the builder would lay the foundation but not have enough to complete the project. So, what is needed to have a plan? My dear friends, we need humility.
Humility is an indispensable virtue for building the house of your lives. Jesus teaches this in the Gospel repeatedly. He says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). The exaltation of pride gets us nowhere because it is unrealistic and untrue. Jesus in that quote is talking about accomplishing a task, the task of being a disciple, the task of building our house. It takes humility because you have to have a truthful self-knowledge and stop living with illusions about yourself. What are your gifts? What are your faults? What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses? This is one reason we have the marvelous Sacrament of Penance to help us assess ourselves. It takes humility to evaluate your life, admit fault, and begin again.
Once we have laid the foundation of Christ, accepted Him totally as the rock on which our lives will be built, and embraced an attitude of humility which allows us to plan ahead, then we can start building. For this the virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit come into play.
The walls of our house are faith and hope. We cannot live a productive life and we certainly cannot build a “house” without them. The faith must be real, encountering the truths that Jesus has revealed through His Church. We need to know what we believe. And we need to hope, so that we can look ahead to what God has promised for us. Christians are people of hope, and they hope because they have faith. Once the walls are built we must add the roof and that is love. St. Paul speaks of these virtues in his First Letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13:13) and mentions that love is greatest. It protects us from destructive rain and wind. To have “a roof over our heads” means we are secure because we are protected by love. As the First Letter of St. John says, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8). This love is supported by faith and hope, just as the walls of a house support a roof. Once the walls and roof are mounted, it is time to decorate.
You may be asking, “What about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?” I am glad you asked. No house is complete without light. Lamps allow us to see. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, courage, and fear of the Lord are the lamps placed and hung throughout the house. Without them we move through the house groping about, stumbling over furniture, bumping into walls.
Today, at Confirmation, God is bestowing upon you the lamps to light up your houses. We would hope that you have already started to build your house, firmly set on Christ, humbly making a plan, mounting walls and roof with faith, hope and charity. In many ways it is all beginning, but of this I am certain. If you try to build the house without Christ as the foundation, it will collapse. Jesus described that too. He said, “[E]veryone 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” (Matthew 7:26-27).
Those words were the last words of the Sermon on the Mount. They are as much a warning as they are a lesson. Be wise. Build your house the way it is supposed to be built.