“He went away sad because he had many possessions.”
My new friend is a homeless poor man along the street of Manila whose name is Lazarus. He has no academic degree but he never ceases to amaze me with his words of deep wisdom and infectious joy. I asked him few weeks ago what he wanted from me and his response was really striking, “Father, I would like to have a new bible. The print of my old bible is too small for my weak eyes to see.” He did not ask for more money or more food or more clothing from me. I got him a Bible and now he sits on his usual begging spot, with his begging cup on one hand and his eyes buried in his new bible on the other hand. The pains of his life does not seem to quench his desire to nurture and grow in his relationship with God.
Wasn’t God reminding me through the wisdom and joy of Lazarus of what makes for true wisdom and what makes for foolishness? A wise man like Lazarus has his hands open to receive the good things of this life but never takes his eyes and hearts away from the words that continuously call him to grow in his relationship with God. We are foolish when we seek or strive to have good things in this life but we do not seek or strive to grow in our relationship with the good God.
The man who runs to Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel is a rich man with many possessions and perfect observance of the Commandments. He can proudly say to Jesus about the Commandments, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” He is however not satisfied but desires something more than his many possessions and his near perfect legal observance of the Commandments. He desires to inherit eternal life, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ response is in two stages. He first of all reminds the man that “no one is good but God alone.” The desire for eternal life is a desire for that interior freedom that comes from being in communion with God. God alone places this desire in the human heart and He alone can fulfill. The man will find his joy in responding to this desire for communion with God whatever it will cost him. Having many possessions and perfectly observing the Commandments is not enough to satisfy this desire for God.
When he said that he has kept all the Commandments from his youth, Jesus, the Incarnate Wisdom, then offers him the challenge of wisdom to grow in his relationship with God and go beyond observance of the Commandments, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’” Walking away from the God-man Jesus Christ, choosing not to grow in his relationship with God, being content with his possessions and perfect observance of the Commandments, the man acted in a foolish way that only denied him the joy of the wise, “He went away sad because he had many possessions.” Because we are made for communion with the good God, we too are overcome with sadness when we act in foolish ways, searching for the good things of this life without seeking to grow in our relationship with the good God.
Sunday’s Readings shows to us three ways of growing in wisdom. The first is by praying for wisdom. King Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in the First Reading completely transforms the way that he values things, “I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.” Wisdom transforms our value system so that we begin to see things more from God’s point of view and value them such.
Secondly, wisdom also comes from listening to the word of God to us and accepting His constant challenge to grow in our relationship with Him. The letter to the Hebrews in the Second Reading shows us that we cannot listen to God’s words and remain the same because this word is “living and effective…able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Divine Wisdom speaks to us in His words, challenges us to grow in our relationship with Him, and prepares us for the moment when we will be judged by God. “Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.”
Lastly, we grow in wisdom when we live our lives as if it were the last day of our lives, responding today to the numerous challenges of Divine Wisdom and refusing to procrastinate. How foolish it is to walk away from Jesus and His challenges to us like the rich man in today’s Gospel, failing to realize that, whether we like to or not, we must render an account to Him at the end of time? Can we hope to face Him at the end of time when we constantly flee from Him and His challenges during this life?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we aware of and responding to the challenges of Divine Wisdom in our lives or are we resting satisfied with keeping the Commandments? Are we satisfied with a weekly or even daily Eucharistic celebration, some recitation of prayers and some apostolate? These things are good and necessary but we must also ask, “Where is the spirit of complacence hiding in my spiritual life? Where is routine making me blind to what I must be and do? How am I being invited to grow more into the image of Christ in offering forgiveness and hope to others? How am I letting my possessions and talents give me an exaggerated sense of my own goodness so that I am reluctant to strive for a deeper and more authentic relationship with God? How have I neglected the good God in my search for the good things of life?” God loves us as we are but His loving wisdom will not let us remain the way that we are.
The Wisdom of God will not let us be just merely good people but to be saints who are on fire with the love of God. In all His challenges to us, let us focus on the love behind the challenge as He looks at us with the same love with which He looked at the rich man in Gospel before offering him the challenge of growth. He challenges us to advance in the way of love because He loves us and wants us to grow in love and interior freedom. Let us also remember the wisdom that has already prepared for us the graces and the means to respond to the challenge and the joy that is ours if we do not walk away from Him and His challenge.
We turn to Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, to help us respond appropriately to the promptings of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, who lives in us. Mary was clearly obedient to the Law and Commandments as she presented Jesus in the Temple at the due time as an infant and at the age of twelve. But Mary also responded to the challenge of the Divine Wisdom who constantly invited her to grow in her love for God from a chaste immaculate virgin before the Incarnation to a virgin-mother of God after the Incarnation, from a faithful disciple at the Cross to the mother of a persecuted Church in its early years. There was no room for sadness in her soul because of her constant wise responses.
In this Eucharist, Incarnate Wisdom comes to us with many challenges to grow in our relationship with Him. Depending on whether we choose to be wise or foolish, we shall either respond to Him and know His joy or walk away from Him and choose to be sad. The choice is ours to make and live out.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
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