Saturday, October 10, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wisdom From on High

Today was one of those amazing days where I got the honor of sitting in a group of men who are
offering their lives in hopes of eventually being configured to Christ to the servant in Holy Orders.  It struck me as I began to read the readings for tomorrow of how apropos they were after the experiences we shared today in that room.  The first reading from the book of Wisdom is just so powerful and reminds me of one of the very great philosophical reminders that Father Peck talked to us about today.

I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands.

Wisdom 7:7-11 NAB

How truthful is that?  I think we often don't understand the power that God has given us in the gift of reason and logic.   We take it for granted.   Do we hold it up as something precious?  Something so wonderful that it makes gold seem like sand?  That something quite rare is really just as common as the sand by the sea?   Do we long for wisdom more than our own health or beauty?   Today's society would teach us otherwise.  To choose to have wisdom over even light?   Are you so enthralled by the beauty of God's gift to us of prudence that you would give up your sight itself to be perfected in it's execution?

There is an allegory from Plato that Father Peck mentioned in his lecture that really puts things in perspective.  The Cave, in which people are chained to the wall unable to see anything or anyone, except for that which is right in front of their face.  They cannot see behind them or around them, but only the shadows cast by a fire and by objects held by people unseen.  That these people are unaware of the world outside because all they know is the shadows on the cave wall. Here we have these people in bondage, but are they aware of it?  Do they realize how much they need?  How much they haven't seen?

In freedom they find themselves open to a world of sight and sound that is so much more full of depth than anything they had thus experienced.  They feel sorry for those still trapped in the cave, and do everything they can to bring them out of the bondage.. out of the flat, one experiential existence.  Isn't that what wisdom is indeed?  Philosophy? Theology?  Opening our minds to a reality so far beyond what we first perceived with our limited senses?  Bringing us to understand something so much deeper than just the visible, but helping us to grapple and wrestle with the invisible?  In Wisdom we find hope, we find a world beyond just the shadows cast on the wall in our self imposed caves, but rather we open our minds to contemplate and experience things beyond ourselves. 

How does that apply to the gospel?  The church in her infinite wisdom and effort has attempted to tie the gospel and the first reading together thematically.  What do I see there?  In this parable Jesus talks of a young, rich man who wants to know what he must do to get to heaven.  The rich man says he has followed the commandments, and wants to know what more he must do?  Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, then come and follow him.  The Scriptures then tell us that the "young man went away sad, for he had many possessions."   Then Jesus speaks of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  We could really go deep into that imagery and what it might mean or what the words might mean, but suffice it to say that many times I have a hard time just threading a needle with regular thread... imagine doing it with anything larger? 

How does that mesh with the first reading?  Wisdom.   That is what Jesus was encouraging this young man to do, to increase his Wisdom.  You see the young man was trapped in his cave, in his own prison of viewing the world.  He was attached to the material wealth he had, enough that the thought of losing it made him sad.   Jesus was not condemning having possessions, nor even having wealth; but rather being attached to those things.   We was asking him to see the world of detachment, a world in which we are free of desire.   A world in which we are free of suffering, because we do not desire health, wealth, comfort, etc over God... but rather what consumes us most is God.  That is true Wisdom.  That is what Jesus offered to this young man.  He saw him shackled, looking at the wall of the cave, unable to see more than the shadows that Satan and the world offered him.   Jesus tried to free him and bring him outside the cave to see the real world, so full of color and sensation, something beyond what the rich mans mind was able to see.   Instead of coming outside, the young man simply sat in the cave looking at the wall. 

So what about us?   Are we ready to step outside the cave?   Are we ready to follow Christ with a growing detachment to worldly things and a thirst so enormous for God's presence in our lives that we would give up everything else for it?  That anything else, even the most precious gems and metals would seem like filth and refuge to us?  Thomas Aquinas said nearing the end of his life, ""The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."   Are we there?   Are we at least working to be there?

Lord I believe,
Help my unbelief.

In Christ,