Sunday, February 28, 2016
Growth upon the Rock?
Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Third Sunday in Lent
Rocks have a bit of a mixed press biblically. It is upon the Rock of Christ that the Church is built, and St Peter is so named because the Church will be built on him too.
Yet, it is the rocky ground that yields a shallow faith. The seed of the word of God can only grow a little before it withers and dies because it has no root. Thus here we have a bit of a problem Rocks are good for building, but not for growing. Which should we be?
Rocks build temples, but rocks stone St Stephen to death. How can we be rocks and grow?
Remember that it takes time for rocks to form - a long time. Some rocks are born out of the furnace of a volcano, forming as the lava cools and hardens. Other rocks form by compression with the weight of ages of material crushing them into hard rock. You already know that coal and even diamond are the result of prehistoric trees being crushed under millions of millions of years of earth. There was a time when rocks were soft and able to support growth. When a rock is finally hard, it can't grow any more.
This is what happened to Pharaoh as he tried to prevent the Israelites from leaving Egypt. We are told that first of all he hardened his heart against Moses and Israel and wouldn't let them go. Then after more and more plagues, he still hardened his heart.
It comes to a point when God hardens the heart of Pharaoh. This is important. At first Pharaoh hardens his own heart, then God hardens it for him. He has lost the ability to choose because he can no longer see the goodness of God through his own pride. His heart has hardened against God.
This is frightening because it could happen to us if we decide to walk away from God. Growth on rocks is shallow because the seed cannot take root. If we want to make sure that we harden into a rock for the service of God, like St Peter, then we have to work at allowing our faith to deepen and develop.
St Peter hardens into rock for the love of Christ. Although he makes errors, he never allows himself to completely lose sight of God. See how he weeps bitterly when he realises that he has betrayed Jesus. His hardening into rock happens as a result of his perfection by God.
We, too, must harden into rock, and we have to do so for the love of Christ. How do we do this? We are already engaged on studying the Bible and praying to God. Any deepening of our faith must come from living what we believe. Do we know the fourteen works of Mercy? Do we practise them?
Our lives are spent slowly becoming what we live them to be. If we live for Christ and then we become the precious stones in the walls of Heaven.