SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THE WISDOM TO ASK
Have you seen someone make really bad judgment before? Do you know that certainty can disappoint? In other words, someone might be certain of a judgment she makes without knowing that it is wrong, yet she insists on it. I give you an example. Last two days, I watched a ten-minute video of a young man from Africa who came out to tell the world that he tore the Bible. He tried to convince his viewers that he was right to tear the Bible. His reason is that Christians threaten the traditional African religions with the Bible. He says that he’s been receiving series of phone calls from people asking him why he should tear the Bible, so he warns people not to call him again. His premise is, if Christians can destroy shrines and idols in Africa, he is also right in tearing the Bible. Then, the young man claims that the Bible is an ordinary book that is produced in China. After watching the video, I concluded that the young man needed some psychotherapy to help himself. The readings of today focus on wisdom and our human sense of judgment.
God tells Solomon, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you” (1 Kgs. 3:5). Solomon answers, “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act… Give your servant, therefore, an understanding of heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kgs. 3:7-9). Solomon wants wisdom to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. He recognizes his inadequacies. He admits his commitment to the people. Solomon could have asked for other personal needs. He could have asked for material wealth, long life, victory over his enemies. He could have asked for expansion of his kingdom and authority over his subjects, but he asks for wisdom. God responds to him, “Because you asked for this, I do as you requested”. And in human terms, God tells him further, “I will top up to your request” “You’ll have a coupon from me”. God promises to give him every other thing he has not asked for.
In the gospel, Jesus gives us three different images of the kingdom: a treasure, fine pearls, and a net cast into the sea. In the first two images, the persons who find them recognize and appreciate their worth, secure them, then go and sell all they have, and buy the treasures. In the parable of the net cast into the sea, the fisherman hauls out a big catch with a mix of good and bad fish. He sits down, takes time to separate the bad from the good. Christ uses this image to teach us about the last things at the judgment time. The wicked will be separated from the righteous on the last day.
However, the parables of the kingdom raise an important issue regarding our human sense of judgment. The persons who find the treasures make good judgment. First, they have patience. The person who finds the treasure buried in the field hides it. We don’t know how long it takes him to sell his property to purchase the treasure. Same with the merchant who finds fine pearls after searching. The fisherman takes time as well, separates the good fish from the bad. They all exhibit the virtue of patience.
Second, wisdom puts patience to work. Wisdom enables us to discard the bad and search for the good. The merchant, the fisherman and the guy who finds the treasure are able to place their priorities aright because they possess wisdom. They do away with the old, in search of the new. They sell the earthly to possess the heavenly kingdom.
If we go back to Solomon’s example, we may wonder to what extent today’s leaders ask God for wisdom before they go into positions of leadership. Leaders seem to be interested in fame, authority and wealth. They make poor decisions and policies because they lack wisdom. Thus, the world is engulfed in different forms of crises. Wisdom involves knowing and choosing. Wisdom is the ability to know the right thing and the ability to make just judgment regarding such. Wisdom is insight, sagacity, and discernment. Wisdom chooses the good over the bad. Wisdom comes from God. It is the first gift of the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom rejects and condemns evil. Wisdom upholds what God upholds, rejects what displeases God. Most leaders in political positions, for example, struggle to win favors; they worry more about being reelected for another term in office than about pleasing God. Such leaders are not wise. Saint Paul tells us, “…no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed’, and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Any leader who makes policies against human life is unwise. Any leader who bases his judgment only on what he thinks and not what God commands is unwise.
All of us are also called to make judgments in our daily living. What kinds of judgment do we make? Do we ask God for wisdom? Do we recognize the presence of God in the situations we find ourselves? Saint Paul writes in the second reading that all things work unto good to those who fear the Lord. It takes wisdom and patience and to realize that. Paul says, “all things”, not “some things”. Every situation has a “God-element” in it, but we can only find that out if we have the insight or wisdom. Always look out for that God-element in your situation. Let’s say for instance, at work, you have a boss who is terrible, and wouldn’t want to see you. You try to please him, yet it’s not possible. It might make you to lose sight of the good things you can do and resort to talking about your boss always. No, see the God-element and give in your best. It could be sickness, and suffering. Can God be present in your suffering? Yes. Use suffering to create the God-moment. How? See beyond that suffering, there’s something positive you don’t realize you can do. God is healing you through the good things you can do. It could be disappointment. Remember, all things work unto good to those who fear God. The book of Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10). And the Psalm says, “O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways” (Ps. 128:1).
The young man in the video story I narrated at the beginning, lacks wisdom. That’s why he is bold to tear the Bible. He doesn’t understand the place of God in his life. The same thing happens to those who keep God by the side. No matter their status in the society, they are bound to make wrong judgments. Wrong judgments focus on the individual, material things and on the world. Good judgments focus on the things of heaven.
Today, let us ask God for the special gift of wisdom. Parents should ask for wisdom to choose correctly for their children. Teachers should ask for wisdom. Politicians should pray for wisdom. Pastors, priests and ministers of the gospel should ask for wisdom. Employers of labor should ask for wisdom. Everyone should ask for wisdom from God like Solomon. Let us pray: “God of our fathers, Lord of mercy… grant us Wisdom, consort of your throne…Dispatch her from the holy heavens, send her forth from your throne of glory to help me and to toil with me and teach me what is pleasing to you; since she knows and understands everything, she will guide me prudently in my actions and will protect me with her glory” (Wisdom 9:1,4,10-11). Amen.