Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shifting Sands and Firm Foundations

Before erecting a skyscraper, the builders need to make sure the ground is firm enough to support the foundation and the structure. If the ground isn't firm enough, it will shift under the weight of the structure and the foundation will crack. One method is to pile tons of gravel on the site and leave it there to press down on the soil below. After a few months, the gravel is removed to reveal firmly compacted ground suitable for building.

The Hebrew word for faith means "foundation". So, it's natural for the Bible to speak of God's Word as a "rock" or "cornerstone". God's Word is the firm ground on which we can build our lives. But we also must be firm if we are to be suitable for God's dwelling. God tests our firmness by putting us under pressure.

In Sunday's first reading (Hb.1), Habakkuk laments the destruction he witnesses in the city and God's silence. When God finally does speak His message is that the rash man has no integrity, but the just man lives by faith. The rash man is the one who panics when difficulty arises. He changes his game plan. He doesn't have a firm foundation because he's not in one place long enough to build one. The just man, on the other hand, trusts in God no matter what is going on around him. He responds to pressure with calm because he knows the ground he stands on won't shift beneath him. And, he trusts that his foundation will be made firmer through difficulty.

So, when the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith (Lk 17:5-10), he responds that faith is not a matter of size but of strength. The smallest of faiths can uproot the sycamore. In another place, Jesus says it can move mountains. The apostles were correct, nonetheless, in desiring more faith and in recognizing Jesus as the source of that faith.

Our faith increases in strength when we are patient and trusting under the pressures of life. That pressure makes us firmer and a more fitting site for God's dwelling. We can take comfort that, for the building to eventually be erected, the gravel that's causing the pressure has to be cleared away. Any difficulty we are facing is temporary. But the firm foundation is permanent.

The following poem by Saint Teresa of Avila sums it up perfectly:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.

All things are passing.
God does not change.

Patient endurance attains all things.
Whoever has God, lacks nothing.

God alone suffices.


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