Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 118:19-24; Matthew 7:31-27
In Hebrew scripture, the authors of the Jewish Wisdom books frequently contrast two Ways – the way of good and the way of evil, or the way of meaning and the way of vanity. A consistent theme ascribed to the way of holiness, integrity, and truth is its weight. This way has substance – it is heavy, solid, and stable. Those who follow this way have roots, as in Psalm 1: “They are like trees, planted by streams of water, with leaves that do not wither.” By contrast, the way of evil or vanity is light, ephemeral and insubstantial. Those who follow it become like chaff which the wind blows away, like dew or clouds that evaporate, like grass which withers in the sun, or like the web of a spider brushed casually aside.
Jesus’ parable of the two house-builders, which concludes the sermon on the mount in Matthew, participates in this tradition of the Two Ways with its stark opposites: the wise man and the foolish man, the immovable house built on rock and the flimsy house built on shifting sand. This is is a sobering reminder that authentic discipleship demands the concentrated weight of commitment expressed in actions. Accepting wise and prudent commitments is a practice that gives our life with God substance.
In our first reading for today from Isaiah we can find some of the major themes of the Advent season. The first of these is a reward for patient waiting of the righteous nation that keeps faith in the victory of a strong city that will be set up like walls and bulwarks. Next is the hope for peace for those of steadfast mind, who trust in God who is our steadfast rock. Finally there is the promise that the haughty and proud, that is those who are the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city, will be laid low to the ground and cast into the dust, trampled under the feet of the poor, by the steps of the needy. (Cf. Isa. 26:1-26)