Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Wisdom of God
It was really horrible. 12 year old Tommy was bawled out by his little league coach. He was mocked in front of his teammates. He was told that if he ever refused to obey the coach again, he would be off the team. Tommy did his best to keep from crying, but his eyes welled up with tears. His offence? Tommy was a pitcher, and the best pitcher and all around player on the team. When the opposing pitcher came up, the coach went out to the mound to remind Tommy that one of his teammates was hit by a pitch the last inning. It was most probably just a pitch that got away, and it just grazed the leg of the hit batsman, but the coach wanted his pitcher to send a message. Tommy didn’t think that was right; so he didn’t do it. The coach went ballistic. “This is the way baseball is,” the coach fumed, “this is the way of the world. You better learn from this or you’ll be a patsy your entire life.” Sad story, unfortunately not made up. Tommy asked me if he was disrespecting his elders. I told him he was respecting God.
Two different mothers called the school in the second month of the school year. Unless there was a change in the first grade classroom, they were pulling their little girls out of the Catholic school. And they were right. What was going on in that first grade? Some of the other mothers had told their daughters that they needed to assert themselves over the other girls. Well, perhaps these mothers had an original intention of raising daughters who would not be taken advantage of by anyone, but they turned their daughters into bullies, and then supported them when the other mothers complained, becoming bullies themselves. The principal tried to reason with the offending mothers. She got nowhere. In fact, she was told, “the world can be divided into the bullies and the bullied. My daughter will not be counted among the bullied.” Within the year, the school had to ask the offending families to leave. Sad story. True story.
Might makes right. Be the bully or be bullied. Money is power. All these attitudes are the way of the world.
They are not the way of God. They are not the way of the followers of Jesus Christ.
God was very pleased with young King Solomon. The period of mourning the great King David was over. It was now time for Solomon to reign. His father had accumulated whatever Solomon would need to build a Temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. Solomon decided to make this the focus of his reign. Then God appeared to Solomon in a dream. You can read about it in 1 Kings 3:3-9. “I am delighted with you,” God said. And then He asked, “What is it that you would like, Solomon?”
And Solomon replied, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”
To this God said, “Because you have asked for wisdom, and not for a long life or riches or the lives of your enemies, I will give you a wise and discerning mind like no one has ever had before, as well as that which you did not ask for, riches and honor all your life.”
Solomon sought the Wisdom of God, not the way of the world.
But the rich, young man of the Gospel was not so wise. He was a good man. Jesus loved him because he was sincere when he asked what he needed to do to attain eternal life. The man wasn’t trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would be used against him. Jesus called him to become a special disciple, perhaps in time a great apostle. But the man could not leave the way of the world. His money dominated him, and, perhaps, destroyed him.
Might makes right. Be the bully or be bullied. Money is power. This is the sinfulness of the world that Christ came to destroy. He calls us to follow him. He calls us to choose the Wisdom of God over the way of the world.
And many are making this choice. Catholics and other Christians are right now sitting in the cells of horrible prisons throughout the world. Some have lost everything they owned and are expecting to lose their lives. Many young girls have been kidnapped by the practitioners of radical Islam and have been treated in the most abominable ways because they are Christians. Here in the United States many others have refused to sacrifice their Christianity for the sake of advancing in business. They are living far more frugally than some of their workmates. Yet all, those standing for truth in jail, the kidnapped martyrs, and those standing for truth in the rat race of business are in actuality living as rich people. They possess all that matters in life, the Presence of Jesus Christ. They chose and are continually choosing the Wisdom of God.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are some who are living miserably in mansions, surrounded by every type of unfathomably expensive items, paintings, sculptures, with the best vehicles in their garages and a huge ship waiting for them in some Caribbean port, but they are not happy because none of the possessions they spent their lives acquiring can give them happiness.
“Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and shall not rest until they rest in you.” St. Augustine in his Confessions.
The readings today really hit us to the core of our lives. They ask us to consider what are the guiding principals of our lives. Scripture does that to us, doesn’t it? The second reading from Hebrews 4 says that the Word of God is a two edged sword, a sword that is very sharp and very strong. The Word of God cuts through the bone and marrow. It cuts into us and uncovers the thoughts, reflections and desires of our hearts. It cuts through the lies we tell ourselves. It cuts through the masks we wear. The Word of God cuts through to the basic motivation of our lives. And it demands that we ask ourselves today, “Do I follow the way of the world or do I want the Wisdom of God to direct my life?”
Come Holy Spirit! Come Wisdom of God! Give us the courage to embrace the way of the Lord. Give us the courage to live our faith.