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Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest

Isaiah 26:1-6

Psalm 118:I & 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

Matthew 7:21, 24-27


Without building a faithful and just community, all enterprise is ultimately futile.


Civilization really took off with the development of permanently settled centers--cities.

"Cities" are the centers of wealth, power, and human aspiration. Like today's nation states,

biblical cities were a source of pride and seats of power for "princes," those who have at-

tained "lofty" status among others. Their power secured by agreements, treaties, and strong

armies, these princes negotiate with their counterparts from other jurisdictions--principally

for their own increase and the benefit of those loyal to their self-interested vision. They

maintain exacting control over the "gates" to that fortress. We are tempted by their success

and spend more time than we would care to admit currying their favor and allying with


The Scriptures here argue a different type of strength. Justice and lasting security are not to

be found in the promises of and allegiances to the lofty and the princes, but are found in

trust in the ways of God who only builds a city that will "Open up the gates/to let in a na-

tion that is just,/one that keeps faith." Here, God is the architect, the protective gates are

thrown open, and "justice and faith" are the source of power for all the inhabitants. With-

out these basic requirements of justice and faith, no city, no matter how formidable to the

vision of men, will last. Such a worldly city, devoid of real Love, will inevitably crumble and

the resulting rubble will be "trampled underfoot by the needy,/by the footsteps of the


The Psalm reaffirms this topsy-turvy vision of the City of God. Salvation in God comes first;

only then can prosperity with men be sought. Salvation is the promise that something bet-

ter--much better--is available than the promises of princely protection. It begins with that

faith, which, by definition, has no proof, sometimes even sparse evidence. That stubborn

faith ignites the spark of hope, which brings love, the very nature of God, into view. With-

out it, God is invisible and is easy to argue as irrelevant or inexistent.

Our cities and nation states today are marked by, and endangered by, a loss of faith in the

Justice of God. This is not to be confused with a lack of "religion," because although reli-

gions are the caretakers of so much of God's revelation, they are also corruptible devices of

men, easily steered toward good or evil or banality,

often following all those paths simultaneously. So of-

ten we first seek the protection of our own sense of jus-

tice, which is largely self-serving, defensive, and aggres-

sively punitive. We use that justice primarily to build

protective walls around our personal gains. This makes

"common sense," but the key events in the Scriptures

defy conventional common sense. God's Justice does