Where do I put the foundations of my life?

Where do I put the foundations of my life?

The prophet Jeremiah curses the one who puts his trust in man, and blesses the one who puts his trust in the Lord. Br Alin suggests this poses an existential question to each of us: where do I put the foundations of my life?

Reading: Jer 17:5-10

The following homily was preached in the priory church during compline. You can listen here or read below:

What would you think of a person who feeling unwell and ill, instead of going to the doctor, immediately organizes a pilgrimage to Lourdes? It would seem fideistic and irrational because we know that if you are not well you should go to the doctor. However, such a person could claim that he is not going to the doctor because he doesn’t put his trust in man but just in God, as Jeremiah says. But our life is made up of countless acts of trust and faith in those around us. Otherwise, without this faith in humans, we couldn’t do almost anything. It is precisely because of this human faith that when a brother cooks dinner for the community, I don’t just hope, but I know that he is not poisoning us.

It means that we should interpret Jeremiah’s words in a different way, in a deeper way. “Cursed is the one who trusts in men… But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” and I’d say “Cursed is the one who places his foundation in man, and blessed is the one whose end is placed in God”. The central question of this passage is “Where do I put the foundation of my life, that upon which I build my existence?” I think there are two main temptations.

The first one is to build my existence on somebody else or on something else. It is, for example, to place the foundation of my life in an ideology, be it political, ecological or the bearer of a new anthropology that will finally save us. However, the Lord curses those who do this because they seek salvation from where salvation can never come, from the flesh.

Nevertheless, I believe that the second temptation is more insidious: to base my life on myself, on my abilities, on my own flesh. He who trusts in himself does not look outside himself because, precisely as the rich man of tomorrow’s Gospel, he doesn’t need anything else. Such a person, thinks he does not need salvation because he saves himself, through his human or material resources, and inevitably he closes himself to the grace of God. “That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes”.

Let’s ask ourselves, where is God in our plans, in our relations, in our daily life? Do the choices we make take God seriously into account? We friars are not excluded from this temptation. On the contrary, being overwhelmed with things concerning God, it is even more difficult to discern whether what we do is for us or for Christ, to make Him more known or to make myself known in the eyes of people.
It becomes even more difficult to understand whether Christ is the criterion by which I live or the pretext that allows me to continue with my human plans, just wearing a different habit.

This reminds me of a scene from an Italian film about Saint Philip Neri, entitled Preferisco il paradiso, ‘I prefer heaven’. In this scene, a young nobleman who followed St Philip and was part of his group goes to him saying “I want to begin an ecclesiastical career, I know it will be difficult but I want to become a bishop”. And St Philip asks him: “and then?” He replies“after that, probably, I will become a nuncio somewhere”. “And then?” “I could become a cardinal!” and St Philip replies: “that’s great, and then what, pope?” The young man replies: “who knows, maybe yes, pope”. “And then?”

Br Alin was born in Bacau, Romania, in 1998. At the age of five, he moved to Turin, Italy, with his family. During secondary school, he felt a calling to the priesthood for the first time. It was in Bologna, whilst completing a degree in philosophy, that he first met the sons of St Dominic. The desire to live according to the words of the Doctor Angelicus, Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere, led him to join the Order of Preachers in the Province of St Dominic, in northern Italy. He is now doing his degree in Theology in Oxford at Blackfriars Studium.

Comments (3)

  • Margaret Connolly

    Thank you for an interesting and thoughtful piece. I loved the film scene and its very pertinent ending!

  • Robin Leslie

    Apposite to the times in which we live. A religion that makes a god out of Man and refuses the need for a Being greater than ourselves who Created us and gave us the Natural world to live in is called ” a Humanitarian religion” and is opposed to Christianity. For example to restrict Christianity to Social Justice would be the ideological substitute for the Crucified God, Jesus.

    • Br Alin Ardei OP

      Dear Robin, thanks for your comment. I fully agree with what you say, and I think that Robert Hugh Benson in “Lord of the World”, more than 100 years ago, prophetically shows the terrible consequences of this “Humanitarian religion”.


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