SUNDAY REFLECTION (04-09-2016): SEEKING THE DIVINE WISDOM (SOPHIA)

SUNDAY REFLECTION (04-09-2016): SEEKING THE
DIVINE WISDOM (SOPHIA)
The quest for wisdom began from the very moment man was
struck with “wonder”. Put differently, it was wonder that gave birth to
philosophy (love of wisdom). But then, what is wisdom? Is it also the same as
knowledge or intelligence? Wisdom, though may be related to knowledge and
intelligence, but isn’t simply intelligence or knowledge or even
understanding.  It springs from the Greek
word “σοφία” (Sophia), which in simple terms, is the ability to utilize
knowledge, intelligence and understanding to think and act in such a way that
common sense prevails, thus, discerning and judging what is true, right or
wrong. Put differently, wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow
the best course of action, based on knowledge, intelligence and understanding.
In the Christian parlance, wisdom begins and ends with the fear of the Lord. It
isn’t a fear of being struck by lightning or fear of being struck dead, but
it’s a deep, abiding, holy reverence and respect for the Lord and for His Word.
Little wonder the sage says: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Pr. 9:10). From the very
beginning, man has been preoccupied with the acquisition and application of
wisdom in every event of life; and many a times fails to decipher the will of
the “giver of wisdom” (God). It becomes apparent that the wisdom of this life
is different from the wisdom that comes from above (Divine Wisdom). Little
wonder Paul exclaims: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As
the Scriptures say, He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness. And
again; the Lord knows the plans of the wise and how worthless they are.”
(1Cor. 3:19-20).
Dear friends in Christ, today’s readings present to us the Wisdom
of God as opposed to human wisdom, ways of thinking etc. How can we understand
this? 
The First Reading
from the Book of Wisdom (9:13-18B)

illustrates how the ways of God are mysterious and our inability to understand
them. The book of Wisdom was written about a century before the coming of
Jesus, by a faithful and learned Jew living in cosmopolitan Alexandria in
Egypt. One of his purposes was to bolster the Faith of fellow Jews living in a
world indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to their beliefs. Put differently, it
was intended to bolster the faith of his fellow-Jews who were tempted to
“assimilate” to the dominant pagan culture. Today’s passage is about
deep theological issues, such as the ability of the human mind to grasp the
ways of God (the Divine Wisdom), and the interaction between body and
soul.  God’s mind is so unique that we
must constantly, and deliberately, pray for Heavenly wisdom. The section which
we read today began this way: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive
what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure
are our plans…” It went further to say: “but when things are in heaven, who can
search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except You had given Wisdom and
sent your Holy Spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth
made straight.”
This tells us that the Will of God can only be discerned by
the help of God’s Holy Spirit (Divine Wisdom). God gives us this Divine Wisdom
(Holy Spirit) directly in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and the
Spirit empowers and instructs us through Divine Revelation in Scripture and
Sacred Tradition. Hence, we must prepare our plan of action in Christian
discipleship, relying on the power and light of the Holy Spirit. Our decisions
as true Disciples of Christ must flow from our religious values, what the
author of Wisdom calls “things [that] are in Heaven.” This means that we are
called to make decisions as true disciples and persevere to the end.
If we sincerely consider the message of the Second Reading (“Paul’s” letter to Philemon, verse 9-10, 12-17) we would
perhaps ask ourselves this questions: why should St Paul, having devoted most
of his life to the spread of the gospel of Christ, end up a prisoner in chains,
with death by violence to follow? Where is the wisdom behind this? What is the
gain in living a devoted life of the gospel? Was Paul wise at all in his
decision to follow Christ? To the world, Paul made a foolish decision; however,
it takes only the Divine Wisdom (the help of the Holy Spirit) to decipher the
gain of being a true disciple of Christ and persevering to the end, amidst suffering
and persecution, like Saint Paul. Why did Paul write this letter to Philemon?
What was the context? Paul wrote this letter from a prison to his friend
Philemon, challenging him to express his commitment to Christ as a true
disciple by treating Onesimus (his runaway slave) “no longer as a slave
but as a brother.” Critical scriptural study reveals that Philemon was a
Colossian, a wealthy and a personal friend of Paul. Philemon had been converted
to the Christian faith through Paul’s ministry. 
Philemon had a slave called Onesimus who had robbed him and fled to
Rome. God’s grace led Onesimus to the prison where Paul was being held, and the
Apostle took compassion on him, leading Onesimus also to the Christian faith.
Then Paul sent Onesimus back to his master (Philemon) in Colossae with a letter
pleading with the master, not only to spare Onesimus severe punishment, but
also to show him sympathy, affection and Christian brotherhood. We hear this
appeal in the Second Reading. As a responsible Apostle and model disciple of
Christ, Paul was able to utilize the Divine Wisdom in convincing Philemon to
accept Onesimus and treat him like a brother. This would not have been possible
if Paul were to utilize the wisdom of man.
In the same vein, the
Gospel Reading (Luke 14:25-33)
presents a dynamic interpretation our
subject matter (Divine Wisdom).  Taking a
look at the Gospel, we ask ourselves, why is it that in order to be a disciple
of Christ, we must “renounce” both earthly possessions and
possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships) and eventually carry a
“cross”? To the world, this idea sounds foolish, but with the help of the Holy
Spirit (Divine Wisdom), we come to a proper understanding of this “cost of
discipleship”. Let us look at the context of the reading and what led Christ to
make such a seemingly “harsh statement”. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem
where he would be crucified. But the crowd in their earthly wisdom thought that
he was going to Jerusalem to overthrow the Romans and to reestablish the old
Davidic kingdom of Israel.  Jesus was
enormously popular with the crowds as a great healer, brave teacher and miracle
worker. Looking at the cheering masses travelling with him, however, Jesus in
his Divine Wisdom, frankly put before them the strenuous conditions for
discipleship. He says: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and
mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he
cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”
When we hear a gospel passage like this, we often find
ourselves wondering whether Jesus really meant that we should turn our backs on
our families. Or was he exaggerating? Is it really necessary to hate and abhor
our parents, family, brothers and sisters and even ourselves in order to follow
Him? Where is the wisdom in this statement? Taking a look at the Jewish culture
(in the Middle East), anyone who deliberately cut ties with family and social
network would lose the ordinary means of making a living. Further, a person’s life and family
relationships were a necessity for security and identity, regardless of social
position. Why was Jesus, who had been recommending
that his followers love everybody, including their enemies, suddenly announces
that no one could be his disciple unless he hated his own family? If we take
these recommendations so literarily, we would miss out the point. Matthew’s
Gospel makes it clear. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not
worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
(Mt 10:37-38). When Jesus said
“hate your family,” He was engaging in “poetic expression” to
emphasize the kind of dedication He expected from His followers. Put differently, He was talking about spiritual detachment, utilizing the Divine
Wisdom which grants one the ability to put God first, before other
relationships and before self-interest. Without such detachment, one would not
have the ability truly to follow Jesus. 
We must love God more than others, even more than our parents, family,
brothers and sisters. This is a very serious matter. If we meet a conflict
between our loved ones and Christ, our priority should be Christ.
Dearest friends in Christ, the message of today’s gospel continues to make sense as the Holy Mother Church canonizes Mother Teresa of Calcutta today. She was indeed a woman of heroic and great virtue, who went beyond the wisdom of the world and sought the Divine Wisdom; with the Divine Wisdom, she was steadfast and met up with the demands of true discipleship. She was a woman who carried her cross and followed Christ, dedicating her entire life to the service of the poor, little wonder she is foundly called “Saint of the gutters”. 

The Divine Wisdom will lead us to
understand that true happiness can never be found in this life. Just as the
psalmist expresses today in the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 90); it shows the
brevity and uncertainty of this life: “like grass which springs up and flowers
in the morning, by evening, it withers and fades”. We should ask the Lord to “teach us to number
our days aright, that we may gain Wisdom of heart; this would enable us to
understand that “God indeed has been our refuge from one generation to the
next”. This gives us more reasons to adhere to Christ (our refuge) as true
disciples and equally accepting the hardship that comes with it (cross). Put
differently, we are called to seek the Divine Wisdom from the Holy Spirit which
would enable us to abandon ourselves to the will of God, to take up our daily
cross, and to identify with Christ’s suffering. We should not be like the crowd
in the gospel, who in their earthly wisdom, followed Christ and cheered him up
because they thought he was going to Jerusalem to establish the Davidic
kingdom, and failed to understand that salvation lies in the Cross of Christ,
and a equally being a partaker in this cross. Let us endeavour to seek this
Divine Wisdom and live out its values even if it appears contrary to the wisdom
of this world.

May God continue to bless you as you listen to his Word
today. Amen.
HAPPY 23RD
SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

Shalom!

CLICK HERE ALSO TO READ: “SUNDAY REFLECTION 28-08-2016: THE REWARD FOR HUMILITY”

Leave a Reply