Friday, August 14, 2009

Twentieth Ordinary Sunday, Year B

What is wisdom? Is it the same as intelligence? Does wisdom mean that something needs to make sense before we can come to accept it? A lot of people equate wisdom with intelligence. A clever person is often seen as a wise person. If a child scores perfect ‘As’ in his exams, he would be considered smart, but would he be wise? If a person is able to make lots of money, would he be considered wise? If a person knows how to cheat others without being caught, would he be considered wise? If a person knows how to lie or control others, would he be considered wise?

Perhaps, the world would regard these people as intelligent. On the other hand, society would often regard someone who sacrifices all that he has to help someone else who is ungrateful as stupidity. Society would view someone who gives up his time to help the poor or serve the church as a waste of time. Clever people would often use their time to make more money.

Today’s readings, however, paint a different picture of wisdom. St. Paul warns us in the second reading, “Be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, like intelligent and not like senseless people. This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it. And do not be thoughtless but recognize what is the will of the Lord.” That’s it. That’s real wisdom. It is not one’s cleverness that matters. It is thinking with the mind of God. It is God’s wisdom that really matters.

Therefore, human intelligence can sometimes be at odds with divine wisdom. Perhaps, one of the best examples we can give is the Eucharist. We Christians believe that Jesus is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. The bread may continue to look like bread. It may continue to taste like bread. But our faith tells us that it is no longer bread. It is Christ himself. This is something really hard to understand or accept.

It wasn’t also easy to do this at the very beginning. Jesus announces that he is the living bread from heaven and that anyone who eats this bread will live for ever. In addition to this statement, Jesus tells his audience that his “flesh” is that bread of life. The reaction of the Jews is understandable. It is the reaction of logical intelligence. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Love need not be necessarily logical. Neither would it always appear reasonable to us. But love is the logic of God. Love embodies the wisdom of God. Jesus gives his own life for us on the cross, not only for the righteous but also for sinners, for those who have rejected him, for those who were his enemies, for those who refused to believe in him. This isn’t logical but it is wisdom based on the love of God. When Jesus challenges us give up everything for the kingdom of God, to be humble, to forgive our enemies, to take up our cross daily and follow him, this doesn’t sound logical. But it is wisdom in the eyes of God. When we Christians come to the mass and receive communion, it is Jesus that we are receiving, his flesh, his body, his life, his mission. This may sound like foolishness to the world, but for us it is wisdom. Jesus is the only food that can satisfy all our wants and desires.

Being smart is not enough. Being intelligent cannot bring solutions to all our problems. More importantly, we must pray for wisdom – divine wisdom. With God’s wisdom, we will come to understand and appreciate the things that really matter.

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