Last week the question was “who do you say that I am?” Did you come up with an answer? Maybe some of you are thinking to yourself… “did he really expect us to think about that question?” Short answer: yes. Seems like a pretty important question, don’t ya’ think? I didn’t say it was an easy question, just an important one… perhaps the most important you will ever answer in this lifetime. It is the kind of question that calls for wisdom.
When was the last time you prayed for wisdom?
Lots of time in Reconciliation people might mention that they pray to God so that He will make them stop whatever cycle of sin they are in. It can be argued that three times St. Paul prayed for the same thing. God’s answer was ‘No’. God’s grace was sufficient. In Reconciliation I’ll advise, don’t pray for God to stop whatever is going on in your life, but rather, pray for the grace of wisdom, so that you might uncover what is bubbling up from the recesses of one’s soul that leads to sin. Heal that and you might just be good – good as God calls us all to be. But sorting through the milieu of what’s in our hearts, desires, and proclivities – that’s tough stuff. St. Paul experienced that and captured the frustration when he wrote: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15) It takes Wisdom to sort through it all – so, pray for Wisdom. Pray for the wisdom of today’s second reading from St. James: “…the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” (James 3:17).
The word “wisdom” used in both the Old and New Testaments has many uses including the ones we expect: the knowledge of life’s experience, ethical conduct, but also a life of piety. It is the power and resolve that leads to and keeps one on the “right paths” (Prov 4:11-13): “On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on right paths. When you walk, your step will not be impeded, and should you run, you will not stumble. Hold fast to instruction, never let it go.”
It means to take into every aspect of your life peace, gentleness, mercy, good works – and to do so constantly – on the days you feel like and on the days you don’t. Especially on the days you don’t. Maybe it’s on the hard days that you gain deeper wisdom as you begin to know God, to understand his words and ways, and begin to realize that you and the ones you serve are loved by God. Such a beginning is the starting point of true wisdom But just the starting point. Love demands a response. The goal is not simply to come to know and realize those things – as great as they are, but the deepening of wisdom leads to a reverence that comes to expression in the way one lives, the way one goes through the world in showing forth the power and love from God into our daily lives – hence St. James’ emphasis on “living faith.”
A living faith that avoids sin and situations of sins. More importantly, a living faith seeks the Good of the other – St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of love. There is more, but in avoiding sin and seeking to do the Good, you will become a beacon, and as the Apostle James says, a beacon of “all [that is] pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” What a grace to be that way and for people to see us in that way… there’s a powerful witness to the love of God working in you! … and a sign you are on the right path!
The wise person keeps at it, praying for Wisdom to understand how they are to use one’s God-given gifts. St Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians that the Spirit of Wisdom comes “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). Today’s gospel draws our attention to the wise use of talents – not as people seeking to be the greatest in the kingdom of God, but as people and as a church community to “be last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35); To be “servant of all” …. to seek the Good for them.
It is this wisdom of Christ lived out when one of my former parishioners, a Chief Executive Officer, every Monday ministers to his brothers in Christ residing in the county jails. It is this wisdom lived out when one a parishioner organizes others and with them begins a ministry to reach out to and feed the homeless. It is this wisdom of Christ lived out when our parishioners teach the faith to children not their own, visit family not their own in the hospitals, and give of their time to sponsor adults seeking communion with the Catholic Church. Each one of these wise ones “humbly regard others as more important than..” themselves. They and so many others in the parish are on the right path of wisdom. On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on right paths.
So pray for Wisdom… to find healing and so avoid sin. To be open to follow the Wisdom from above that nudges, cajoles and calls each one of us to mission, to service, to ministry – to the Good for the other. And as James writes, may “…the wisdom from above be found in you and may you know a life that is pure… peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits…”
That certainly sounds like the right path to me. Take your first step: pray for Wisdom.