THE NEED FOR WISDOM
September 8, 2013
Today’s readings: Wis 9:13-18; Lk 14:25-33
We are called to witness to Jesus. The baptism in the Spirit is precisely for that purpose, to be empowered to become witnesses to the ends of the earth. Part of the empowerment is the giving of spiritual gifts, both for personal sanctification and also for service. Now one very important gift is wisdom. In fact, in two listings of spiritual gifts in the Bible, wisdom is cited first (see Is 11:2 and 1 Cor 12:8). While all are called to be witnesses, while all are empowered through baptism in the Spirit, while the spiritual gifts are available to all (see 1 Cor 12:31), God gives certain gifts to certain people (see 1 Cor 12:11,29-30), for them to utilize in the service of the body. The charismatic gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 (there are other lists) are particularly for the purpose of building up the body for the work of evangelization.
Why is wisdom so important? It is because we are weak human instruments being used for divine purposes. We do God’s work. But God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts (Is 55:8). “For who knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” (Wis 9:13). Thus our human thinking comes in the way of God’s work and intent.
* “For the deliberation of mortals are timid” (Wis 9:14a). We are constrained by our limited vision. For example, we are reluctant to enter into a work of truly massive evangelization because we think of our lack of resources.
* “and uncertain our plans.” (Wis 9:14b). We make many plans, often having contradictory ideas, but not really tapping on to the very mind and heart of God.
* “For the corruptible body burdens the soul” (Wis 9:15a). We concern ourselves with physical and material needs and thus neglect the spiritual. We look to our bodily needs and wants and thus fail to notice the stirrings of the soul within us, that yearns for God and for the work of God.
* “and the earthly tent weighs down the mind with its many concerns.” (Wis 9:15b). We are burdened by the concerns of life and fail to just entrust these to the Lord, knowing that He is a God who provides richly for our needs, but that we need first things first, the Kingdom before our own personal well-being.
* “Scarcely can we guess the things on earth, and only with difficulty grasp what is at hand; but things in heaven, who can search them out?” (Wis 9:16). With so many great secular minds in this world, we see war, exploitation, selfishness, greed, corruption, injustice, environmental degradation, etc. The US and the EU will bomb Syria and endanger the whole world. The UN promotes reproductive health throughout the world. People have made a big mess on earth. How indeed can people grasp what is of the Spirit of God?
What is the way then to bridge the gap? It is the Holy Spirit, who not only empowers us to witness, but who is our Counsellor, who gives the gift of wisdom. “Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high?” (Wis 9:17).
Now the call to be witnesses of and to Jesus is also a call to discipleship. Who can truly witness to Jesus other than a true disciple? One problem precisely is that those who try to witness to Jesus are not disciples, not truly following in the footsteps of the Master, and so their witness becomes negative. Just consider the scandal of clerical sex abuse, of pastors with prostitutes, of Christian leaders who lead profligate lives. Consider Protestant ministers who favor divorce, abortion and same-sex unions, and Catholics who support reproductive health. These people all speak about Jesus and the faith, but are not even true disciples!
Discipleship is not just about claiming to follow Jesus. It takes wisdom from on high. Consider the astonishing demands of discipleship as taught by Jesus himself.
* “If any one 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.” (Lk 14:26). Jesus does not mean “hate” in the way we understand the word today. Jesus in fact is all about love, and our relatives are actually our closest neighbors. In Palestinian usage, “to hate” means “to love less.” Thus Jesus speaks about total dedication, where even family must not stand in the way of doing what he calls us to do. Remember how James and John left their father Zebedee and their family fishing business when Jesus called them?
* “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:27). The life of a true Christian disciple is not going to be a bed of roses. Rather it will be a bed of thorns. There will be opposition, persecution, suffering and pain. How many Christians do all they can to avoid these? But they are part and parcel of the package. We are to carry our cross and follow Jesus, all the way to Calvary.
* “In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33). A disciple must not be attached to possessions or the things of this secular world. In fact we are called to empty ourselves and to deny ourselves. Too many so-called disciples are indulging themselves instead. We are called to perfection, right? Jesus told the rich young man that if he wanted to be perfect, he was to sell all, give the money to the poor, and then follow him.
Wow! The above demands of discipleship are all contrary to normal human thinking! And Christians, with their human wisdom, come up with all the excuses why they should not treat family, money, possessions, career, etc., in these ways. Inevitably, the response to the call to discipleship and being witnesses is weakened or compromised.
How can we be truly empowered to witness? We need wisdom. And we need to follow those who have been given the gift of wisdom. “Walk with the wise and you become wise” (Prv 13:20a).
We are called to walk the straight and narrow path, the path of true discipleship. We are called to live our lives for God, to do only what pleases Him. We are called to be witnesses to Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Let us pray for wisdom, and for wise men and women to lead us.
“Thus were the paths of those on earth made straight, and people learned what pleases you, and were saved by Wisdom.” (Wis 9:18).
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“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)