December 3, 2020
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University's Retired Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Lectionary: 178

Isaiah 26:1-6
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27
Matthew 7:21, 24-27

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A brief bio on Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier


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Learning Perseverance in Difficult Times

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” - Matthew

On a hot August day in 1963, my dad, a Nebraska farmer, joined my mom and me in watching the March on Washington on TV. Out of the blue, he announced that the nation should solve its racial problems through intermarriage. A Republican Nebraska farmer. In 1963. Then he went further.

“If one of you kids wanted to marry someone of another race, that would be fine with your mother and me,” he said.

In virtually all White rural Nebraska, that seemed like a remote possibility but within the decade, my brother married his wonderful African American wife with the enthusiastic support of both families.

My parents never preached anything that they didn’t practice and what they preached came straight from the Sermon on the Mount. In doing this, they exemplified the message of today’s Gospel.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”

As I meditated on this passage, I caught two historians on TV discussing the contrast between Thomas Jefferson’s [one of the U.S.'s founding fathers and the third U.S. President] soaring words about liberty and his ownership of slaves, especially his slave mistress and the slave children he fathered by her.  Rank hypocrisy – and today Jefferson’s reputation suffers because of it, like the house built on sand.

In contrast, my parents built their house on the “rock” of consistent decency.  During World War II, my mother went out of her way to room with a Japanese American student when hostility against them ran wild. During the 1950’s, my folks sponsored two families of Polish displaced persons, among other good deeds.

No one is perfect but my folks modeled the behavior they demanded from their six children. And that’s the lesson of today’s Gospel. Jesus demands consistency between what we believe and how we live. This can be tough but it’s the foundation for a “houses built on rock.”

P.S. It wasn’t easy being raised by people as unrelentingly moral as my parents but I am unceasingly grateful to be their daughter. May they rest in peace.

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