6 December 2007 Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent
Isaiah 26, 1-6; Matthew 7, 21, 24-27
The readings today are about strong foundations. The book of Isaiah says, “the city of the Lord is built on rock”, and therefore no enemy can destroy it. In Jerusalem, there is a famous landmark called, the Dome of the Rock, especially significant for the Muslims. Under the Dome is a rock that carries with it various stories and tradition. It is said that Muhammad in AD 621 went to heaven at night in the spot of the rock, accompanied by the angel Gabriel. He met in heaven Abraham and Moses. There he was given the prayers many Muslims now recite with devotion. In Judaism, the stone is where Abraham fulfilled his promise to sacrifice Isaac (in Jewish-Christian tradition) or Ishmael (in Islamic tradition). It is also in this rock that many scholars believed to be where the Holy of Holies was upon which they have placed the Ark of the Covenant. Priests offered incense and sprinkled blood on this stone. Furthermore, Christian history tells us that during the Byzantine period, Helen, Constantine’s mother, built a small church dedicated to Sts. Cyrus and John. There is also a legend that says that the whole world was built on this stone: thus, we call it the foundation stone. However varied the significance, they are all experiences of God.
In other words, the readings invite us to reflect on our “foundation stones or experiences” — the principles on which we have built our lives. These are our non-negotiable principles that we would staunchly value. In my class in Theology, I asked my students to reflect on just one primary principle in their lives (aside from God), and many of them said they value their family above all other things. This principle has been wrought from personal, family or community experiences.
Second, we can reflect on appropriate behavior and actions that confirm this principle. For example, having the family as top priority, my students said that they would make it a point to eat together at breakfast and dinner every day.
Third, we can reflect also on how we celebrate and mark these principles. What specific and concrete events do you keep that illustrate the value of family? My students listed down Sunday mass and lunch together, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and a summer and holiday weekend together.
By these three aspects, we build our lives and the lives of generations on it. Families are stronger when these principles are taught, lived and celebrated. Personal experience and history confirmed that families who value their relationships have weathered storms.
The same way with faith. Churches built on stone prevail.