28 September 2012
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I was talking to a high school student from Lansing Catholic a couple of weeks ago. He was showing me his iPod and all the songs he had on it, and talking about how the songs he had were true music. So, I showed him my iTunes library on my phone to compare. As it turns out, according to him, I only had a few songs that were actually “music.” The rest was just “noise,” apparently. Now, sometimes high school students in any grade know it all. But if there’s one class that epitomizes the attitude that they know it all (because, after all, they’ve studied) it would certainly be a sophomore. You see, in general, freshmen know that they don’t know anything and that they’re just starting out. Juniors and have studied enough to realize that, while they know a lot in their particular area of interest, that they have only scratched the surface of available knowledge. Sophomores, on the other hand, think they know it all, but haven’t learned enough to realize that they don’t: a particularly dangerous combination. But that’s why we use the word sophomore to describe their class year: it comes from the Greek words sophia and moros, meaning wisdom and fool. Sophomores are, again in general, wise fools.
The Word of God in today’s readings talks about wisdom, and sets before us two types of wisdom: the wisdom of the wicked, and the wisdom from above. Our first reading focuses on the wisdom of the wicked. In their mind, the just one needs to be eliminated, or “taken care of,” as a wise guy might say. The wicked consider a holy person obnoxious, and they are insulted by his correction of their faults. They are ready to put the just one to the test and see if all this “God talk” adds up, and if God will really protect His so-called servant. The wicked see a holy life as a threat and a danger to their way of life, and so they have to destroy it so that they can continue in their own way.
The wisdom from above, on the other hand, is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” It is a different way of looking at the world. It does not waver in the face of threats, and is always sincere and true. It seeks peace, not just an absence of conflict, but true justice for all. It forgives wrongs and does not go looking for a fight. Jesus also tells us in the Gospel that the wisdom from above turns the wisdom of the world on its head. Whereas in the view of the world the truly great person is the one who is in charge of everything, in the wisdom from above, the great person is the one who is the servant of all.
If it were that easy to pick out the two types of wisdom, our world would probably be a better place. But we are beset by weakness, but concupiscence, the desire for lesser goods, and the wisdom of the wicked often looks more enjoyable, more attractive. When it comes to skipping class, or alcohol, or sex outside of marriage, the wisdom of the wicked seems much more appealing. But wisdom from above gives true happiness, not just passing pleasure.
If we are truly convinced that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, rather than just one way, or one truth, or one life, then we who have the wisdom from above should seek to share it with others. If the Gospel truly is Good News, and true wisdom, than to keep it to ourselves not only does us harm, but also does those who need to hear that Good News and that wisdom harm. That is one way that we serve others: by sharing with them the wisdom and joy that we have in Christ. Have you asked a roommate or a friend, whom you know is Catholic but is not coming to Mass, to join you on Sundays for Mass, or for men’s or women’s group? We are not called to condemn, but to invite. We warn others about the dangers of the wisdom of the wicked, but we do not cajole others into joining us. We simply extend an open hand of love and joy.
When those who are wise in wickedness are confronted—by a friend, a family member, or religion—it’s always portrayed as people just trying to rain on the parade. We may be called obnoxious by our friends. Laziness, drunkenness, and debauchery look like a ton of fun. And they certainly are pleasurable. But they do not lead to happiness. They quickly fade, and often leave a path of destruction in this world. Meanwhile, the just, those striving for holiness, often put up with a lot more suffering, a lot more pain, certainly less pleasure in the eyes of the world. But, if God created the world, and He knows best how it works, and He is the best answer for the desire of every human heart, then following the wisdom from above makes sense, not just in this world, but also in the world to come. A life of restraint and service is what makes for a great life, not a life of license and using others. It’s upside down from our view. But if we take it from God’s perspective, then it’s just the way God intended it.
We can stay sophomores in our faith; we can be wise fools. God gives us that freedom. We can pretend that we can do whatever we want now, and just make up for it in some possible future act of repentance that we may never make. Or, we can be truly wise, and move beyond our sophomoric ways, and live by the wisdom that comes from above, that gives us and those around us true peace and joy. And then, being truly wise, we will see the need to serve others by sharing with them the wisdom from above, so that they can find that peace and joy that we have by living a truly wise life.