• 07:38
  • Sunday ,29 May 2011

The wise man builds his house on the rock

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Monday ,30 May 2011

The wise man builds his house on the rock

 The wise never builds his house on the sand, on moving and unstable land, as the foolish does (Mt 7: 5), but rather builds it on the rock.

Building on the rock: 
It signifies building on deep faith in God, on sound understanding of His commandments, or on strong firm foundation of love for God, for people, and for good.
Such strong and firm foundation never falls.
As engineers do, build houses on deep foundation of reinforced concrete, which no winds or rains can shake or move from its place. This is the difference between building on the rock and building on the sand. Some people go to church and listen to God's word, just for knowledge, while others listen, with the intent to act accordingly. While the former turn the mind into a store of knowledge or a moving encyclopedia, having answers to any question, the latter listen, act, and turn the word into life.
To the latter the word of God is like the seed received by the good ground (Mt 13: 23); it bears fruit and produces some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.     
   The house built on the sand, on the contrary, is like a person troubled by sin coming from outside like thorns springing up and chocking the plant, or coming from the inside like seed received by stony land that will never bear fruit.
A house built on the rock is one built on the love of good.
Even if the person of the type of house built on the sand does good, it is merely for fear of criticism, or to gain praise, or just to do like the others, or forcibly for fear of punishment. Such a person has no foundation to build on, and resembles one who does not work at all. If fire tests his work, it will burn (1 Cor 3: 12, 13).
The difference between the house built on the sand and that built on the rock appears in prayer. Some people pray because they love God and long to speak with Him, as the Psalmist says, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God." "My soul thirst for God, the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?"
The house built on the sand is like a person who prays as a mere habit, without emotion or fervency, only in obedience to the command of his father confessor, but not out of love. It is merely because he is ashamed to appear in default. His prayer is not true, for he honors God with his lips, while his heart is far from Him (Mt 15: 8; Isa 29: 13). Any thought may distract his mind away, and conclude as if he did not pray at all.
Another difference concerns faith, whether built on the rock, or on the sand.
Faith built on the rock is unshakable even by doubts, like the faith of St. Athansius the Apostolic, built on sound and deep understanding of the words of the Scripture. Unlike him were those who afterwards became Arians due to the teaching introduced to them by Arius, who misunderstood the Scripture. Athanansius resisted all of them and explained to them the scriptural texts in a sound way, especially in his book, "Contra Arius". Athanasius succeeded in leading the theological thought in his days against all doubts. Jerome therefore said about him, "There was a time when the whole world would have become Arian, but for Athanasius."
The house built on the sand theologically speaking represents many, considered faithful only because they had been born in the faith. Those would easily turn into any other faith upon hearing a sermon from another party or sect. Some even move from one sect or religion to another just to get married to a spouse from that other sect or religion!
We have therefore to implant in our children from the early age the sound faith and dogma.     
We have to provide them with biblical verses, explanations, and evidence, and to answer any doubts that may arise within them. This will strengthen them against such doubts. We also must give due care to the youths against all waves prevailing in the society, so that we might be able to save them from deviating. Let our spiritual teaching be not mere lectures, without practical exercises that may turn teaching into life, nor mere spiritualities without dogmatic basis.
Everybody may undergo temptation:
   In the same Parable the Lord said that both houses were exposed to rain, to floods, and to winds (Mt 7: 25, 27). The same applies to the wise and to the foolish; both are exposed to temptations, for even saints, the same as the sinners or anybody else are exposed to them. The difference is that some would be steadfast, and some fall.
Offences may come on everybody, but some fall and their fall is great (Mt 7: 27), some fall only after some resistance, and some others never fall however strong the wars may be, as they are built on the rock.
The Lord did not say that the righteous would not undergo trial or temptations.    
   Nay, rain falls on both, rivers flow down, and wind blows in between and beat on the houses of all of them. Job the righteous underwent trial although he was a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1: 8), and David likewise, although the Spirit of God had come down upon him (1 Sam 16: 13), and though being a man of prayer and psalms who played the flute and ten stringed instrument. Samson also underwent trial in spite of his being a Nazirite to God from the womb. The Lord had blessed him and the Spirit of God came upon him and began to move upon him (Judg 13: 7; 24, 25; 14: 19). The Lord Christ said to His apostles, "Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat." (Lk 22: 21) "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night." (Mk 14: 27)
Judas fell, and his fall was great indeed, because his house was built on the sand. Some of the disciples fled on Christ's arrest and only John the Beloved followed Him to the Golgotha and stood beside His cross. What avails is the foundation.
Some people, when falling, would lay blame on the others not on themselves!   
When asked why they fell, they would say, 'The others cause us to stumble! The others neglect us! The priests do not visit us! The bishops do not care about us! The spiritual environment is not encouraging! The example does not exist!' They never say that they are weak within, but always lay the blame on the others!
A sinner looks for something to hang his sins on!
   Actually, if your house is built on the rock, you will never fall, even if no priests visit you, or the church neglected you! If the spiritual environment is lukewarm, you can kindle it with your fervency. If the ministry is weak, you do the ministry. Do not put your burden on the others, for the apostle says:
   "You are inexcusable, O man." (Rom 2: 1)  
   In the days of Habib Guirgis there was no significant public teaching in the church, yet he did not give himself excuse. He shouldered the responsibility and delivered lectures in the Seminary while still a student! He established the Sunday Schools, and wrote a book on religious teaching for schools. He laid the church education foundation.
   Though Moses the Prophet was brought up in the king's palace, surrounded by the ancient pharaoh worshiping, he held fast to sound faith, and became a hero of faith.
   A person who usually gives excuses, has a house not built on the rock.  
   Heretics resisted St. Athansius the Apostolic with all violence and banished him from his see more than once, but he did not shake. They said to him, 'The whole world is against you, Athanasius' but he said, 'I am against the world.' So they called him, Athanasius Contra Mondum". When rain fell, floods came, and winds blew and beat on his house, it stood firm, because it was built on the rock. That is why the apostle said, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor 15: 58)
   The Grace:
   God's grace visits everybody, whether wise or foolish.
   The difference is that the wise accepts the work of the grace and takes part in it, while the foolish refuses it.
   The Holy Spirit works for everybody, and when He finds a person getting into communion with Him and taking part with Him in work (2 Cor 13: 4), He works in him, with him, and through him.
   However, some do not accept the Spirit, but rather grieve Him, quench Him, and resist Him (Eph 4: 30; 1 Thess 5: 19; Acts 7: 51).
   King Saul and David are two prominent examples of the relationship with the Spirit. The Spirit of God came upon Saul and he prophesied (1 Sam 10), but he worked alone, separate from the communion of the Spirit, so the result was disastrous, for the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, and a distressing spirit troubled him (1 Sam 16: 14).
   David, on the other hand, was wise, for he worked with the Spirit, and his heart was loyal to the Lord (1 Kgs 11: 4)
   The Lord knocks at the door of the house built on the sand, but it does not open (Rev 3: 20). It is like those of whom Abraham the father of the fathers said, "Neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." (Lk 16: 31) They have no impetus from within that would make them respond to the work of the Spirit. They have no foundation at all to build on any spiritual work. They are like the old Epicurean and stoic philosophers who, hearing St. Paul's preaching, said, "What does this babbler want to say?" (Acts 17: 18)