In today’s gospel, Jesus is very blunt in his teaching about the difference between pretense and sincerity and the consequences of each. If our good works are merely a pretense to impress others, they will not be recognized by the Father. He goes on in his teaching with the analogy of the foundation of a home. A relational foundation built on pretenses and impressions will not survive, whereas one that is built on faith and love will last an eternity. What Jesus is teaching us about our relation with his Father can be applied to our human relationships also, especially marriage.
Forty-two years ago on June 25, my husband and I married. I would say that like most lengthy marriages, our foundation has become fairly solid. That is not to say that we have had a perfect marriage. In the beginning, the foundation was not so firm as we strove to hang on to some of the pretenses and good impressions that are part of dating. We have also had our share of times when the winds of anger and hurt whipped against our relationship. But the foundation became sufficiently strong to help us weather those times. The strength of our marital foundation has grown from shared experiences both good and bad such as the stillbirth of a daughter, the births and raising of six healthy children, four loving and supportive parents and each of their deaths, good and satisfying work and not such good jobs, and successes and failures in a variety of endeavors. More than anything, it has been a shared faith and trust that God will always be there to sustain us in the good and the bad that has cemented our relationship so that it has grown strong and hopefully ready to weather whatever else is in store for us.
Similarly the foundation of our relationship with God has to be one that grows in strength. We are not born with a stone foundation in our relationship with God, and He does not expect perfection from us. What He does expect is that we be honest with ourselves about the weaknesses in our foundation. He is not interested in pretenses and false impressions. He expects us to be sincere in our desire to strengthen our relationship with Him. Although the gospel story may sound stern and demanding, our God is a loving God who will be there for us, eternally patient with our missteps, and ready to bolster the strength of our relational foundation with Him.
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