Building on a Solid Foundation
THE Church places the name of Jesus at the beginning of the year to teach us the important truth that the new year can become a happy year only when Jesus lives in our hearts.
Today, my dear children, as we start the new year, we are going to do some building. Each and every one of us is erecting a building in the course of our daily lives; we are placing stone upon stone every day till the building is completed and the Great Architect accepts or rejects the work we have done.
Once there was a great architect who had built great cities and little villages, marble palaces and simple thatched cottages. Some of his buildings were very grand; others were very simple; but all were well built. These houses were let to different people to live in, and some took care of them, but others did not. The great architect had two servants in his workshop. He taught them how to build, and always gave them three pieces of advice: first, Always build on a good foundation; second, Always choose good materials; third, build slowly. After a time the great architect sent his servants into a new country and told them each to build a good stone house. The two servants went to the new country, and there they found many people building, some well, others badly; one servant remembered his master's advice, Always build on a good foundation. So he got workmen together and looked about for a spot to build on. When he found it he cleared away all the soil and rubbish, until he came to solid rock. Remembering his master's second rule, Always choose good materials, he hewed seven pillars of stone to support the roof, and to each pillar he gave a name. The first pillar he called Faith; the second, Obedience; the third,Love; the fourth, Truth; the fifth, Gentleness; the sixth, Prayer, and the seventh, Work. And he did not forget the third rule, Build slowly. On top of the roof, high over all, he fixed a great stone cross, so that whenever the sun was shining the house was under the shadow of the cross. At last, the house was finished. Now what was the other servant doing? He went to work in a very different way. He laughed at his companion for taking so much pains, and went down to the riverside, where the sand lay smooth and yellow. He began to build there, and forgot all about his master's advice, Always build on a good foundation. He also forgot the advice about building slowly; he hurried on the work, so that he might finish his work and enjoy himself. Neither did he choose good materials for his building, but used any wood or stone which came in his way. Instead of the seven pillars of the house, this builder had but one, and that was called Selfishness. At last his house was finished.
The winter came and the wind roared, and the storm raged, and the floods rose and beat upon the houses. The gentle summer stream became a foaming torrent, which dashed against the walls of the buildings. But the waves beat and the lightnings flashed in vain against the one house, and in vain the wind shrieked at the windows; the house stood firm. Why, my children? Because it was founded upon a rock, and was well built of good materials.
Now, let us look at the other house. It seemed strong enough in fair weather, but when the storm came the sandy foundation began to sink and tremble. The one pillar, called Selfishness, began to totter and give way, and soon the whole building fell to pieces like a house of cards; then the flood swept away the ruins and the poor, foolish builder was whirled down the torrent with the wreckage.
My dear boys and girls, this is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. You know, of course, that God is the great Architect, who has built up all the cities and villages, and the mountains and islands. We are all His servants, and He sends us into this world, a new country to build. What are we building? Good lives, lives which will stand and last forever? Remember the lessons of the architect. First, we must build on a good foundation, and our foundation must be Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages. Next, we must choose good materials with which to build our lives. What are they, do you think? Good companions, good books, good works, innocent amusement.And, thirdly, remember to build slowly. Good lives are built up on little things and bit by bit. Great generals and statesmen and lawyers and clergymen become great slowly by learning; so do good Christians. Then we must remember the seven pillars of our house.
The first pillar must be Faith in God, in believing all He has revealed and all that His Church teaches. And then comes Obedience, for if we believe in God we must be obedient to Him. We must obey His commandments and those of His Church. Then there must be Love, love of God and to one another; no good life can be built up without the pillar of love. Next come Truth and Honesty. Every noble life is built up on Truth and Honesty. And we must not leave out Gentleness, which makes our building so sweet and beautiful. Nor must we omit prayer, including the sacraments, without which we cannot erect a good building; nor Work, that we may be useful to ourselves and helpful to others. These are the seven pillars that keep up a good Christian life. And above all, my children, there must be the Cross of Christ. Our life cannot be good, cannot be what God loves, unless we deny ourselves and prefer His will to our own—that is, living under the shadow of the Cross.
We have looked at the house built on the rock, the holy life founded on Jesus. Now look at the house which fell, the life which was lost. The foundation of sand is this world's pleasure and sin, and the pillar is selfishness; such a life cannot stand against the storms—the temptations, sorrows and losses of this life—which come to all of us. Remember that the flood beat against both houses; so, also, troubles and temptations come to good and bad alike, but only the lives founded on Jesus can stand against them.
Now I want you to ask yourselves a very serious question: "What am I building?" Children, on this, the first day of the year, just ask yourselves: "What kind of a building am I putting up? Have I a good foundation? Am I following out the plans of the Architect as my teachers daily show me in school and in church?" You are still very young, and now is the time to lay the foundation of your future happiness or your future ruin. We all are the builders of our fortunes. God grant we may build as the Great Architect teaches us to build!
This year will be a new year for you if you lay aside everything that is sinful and endeavor daily to become more perfect. Let no day pass without practising some self-denial, and give your whole, entire love to God. If you spend every day in His service, the new year will be a happy one for you. And when God calls you from your earthly home the angels will welcome you into His mansions beyond the skies.
Source: Anecdotte - Sermonettes for Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921
A coloring page for today can be found below.