Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
The week has been a rich one: we’ve heard the call to build God’s Kingdom, looked at its delicate beginnings, been recruited as workers in this great project, warned as to the challenges we will face once we commit fully to our work, challenged then to labor with the same heart as our Master and, finally, reminded that before we get started we must ourselves permit Jesus to work on us before and during our labors. It seems as though our on-the-job orientation is wrapping up; now we will receive some sound advice on how to build this Kingdom.
In a world of materialism and “I want it now” corners are cut all the time and when this ends in spectacular disaster, we hear about it in the news. Botched cosmetic surgeries, building collapses, car recalls, software malfunctions, drugs being pulled off the market, and all manner of things that, if they’d been more carefully built, discerned or tested, may have been truly wonderful. But because the money and demand are there, the sooner a thing is done, the sooner its doer makes bank. Similarly in today’s well-known parable, there is a man who could have done the extra work of digging down to bedrock and setting his foundation upon it, but he wanted his house sooner rather than later. However, he ended up paying for his cost-saving measure in the end when a flood occurred and he lost everything.
Traditionally—and not wrongly—the moral of this tale is often seen to be that Christ is commissioning His Kingdom-builders to build on the solid foundation of His teaching; the image of building on rock occurs famously in Matthew 16:18 when He says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Given all we’ve considered in the previous week we can garner another lesson from today’s Gospel: to labor for the Lord means to do as He commands, to listen to His words and act upon them. What has He told us all week? That there is a lot to do and that it will be hard; building the Kingdom will be anything but quick and easy. He also says, though, that the reward at labor’s end will be well worth it, just as we see that the hard work of the man who dug a foundation paid off quite well: at the end of the storm, the flood and all the strife of the world around him, his place of rest was secure. Let us seek the grace, as St. Ignatius prayed, to serve Jesus as He deserves, “to give and not to count the cost…to toil and not to seek for rest…to labor and not to ask for any reward.” In laboring not efficiently but faithfully, may we find that the house prepared for each us (John 14:2) in Heaven still stands, its Builder ready to receive us with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt. 25:21)