Friday of the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time: Mass of the Holy Spirit

Today’s readings
This is the first school Mass of the year, so I celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience, when you’re talking to someone, that you feel like you’re not both having the same conversation. Or you feel like, even though you’re both speaking English, you’re not talking the same language. Sometimes that happens: you think you’re both talking about the same thing, but very clearly, one or both of you is missing the point.

I think Saint Paul’s message to the Corinthians today might be something like that. They think they know what wisdom is, and I believe they really do know how the world defines wisdom, but the thing is, God’s wisdom is very, very different from the world’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is way beyond anything anyone has ever thought. Because, for God, wisdom looks like that Cross up there. Because the Cross is what the world thinks of as the ultimate defeat. It was a death saved for the most horrible criminals. It was a very public way to put an end to someone’s criminal foolishness.

But God used that horrible thing to make the best thing ever happen. He used the Cross to overcome the worst death ever by raising Jesus up on the third day. The worst death ever became the best life ever, where there is no more pain or sadness or death. It turns out God’s wisdom is very, very wise indeed!

For Jesus in today’s Gospel the call to be truly wise was a bit more simple: be prepared. Just as the wise virgins who had taken the time to buy enough oil to last them through the night were rewarded by getting to join in the marriage feast, so all of us who are wise enough to be a light shining in a dark place will be rewarded with being able to join God’s feast and become one with him.

I think it makes a lot of sense that we talk about wisdom at the beginning of our school year. The whole point of this coming school year is for all of us to grow in wisdom. So we have to be ready to tackle subjects that maybe don’t make a lot of sense to us at first. We might think something new is just foolishness until we actually get it, and then we grow in our ability to learn. And we have to come prepared, knowing that sometimes it doesn’t seem like we’re going to understand what we’re being taught, but persevering, staying with it anyway until it actually makes sense.

For all of this, we have to rely on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s own spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace and the gifts to do all the really good things that we want to accomplish and that God wants us to do. And so we begin our year by asking the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, and the grace to hang in there when things get tough.

But the Spirit’s gifts are more than just wisdom. Saint Paul says to the Corinthians a little later on in his letter:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. (1 Cor. 12: 4-11)

And so someone might be able to grasp wisdom or knowledge quickly. Another might be a person of great faith, helping others to trust God when things are tough. Another person might have the gift of healing, maybe helping people when they are hurting physically or emotionally. The point is the Holy Spirit moves us in many different ways, and all of us are given some of the gifts of the Spirit. And we are given those gifts so that we can give them to others.

So as we begin our school year together, we want to pray to the Holy Spirit so that he will give us whatever gifts we need to do whatever it is we are supposed to do. We want to thank the Holy Spirit for those gifts, and promise to use them for our good and the good of the other people he puts in our lives. And we should always thank God for those wonderful gifts, because they make us better, happier people and using them makes our world a better place.

I know a lot of you know the prayer to the Holy Spirit, so if you do, pray it along with me:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Stop Hoarding!

Today’s readings

Once in a while in the news, you will hear a story of someone who has hoarded possessions so much as to put them in danger. A while ago, I remember hearing of someone who had passed away, and rescuers needed to cut a hole in the roof in order to remove the person from the home. People like this have an illness with regard to hoarding, of course. But today’s Liturgy of the Word seems to address the hoarder in all of us. We are people of means, maybe not the most well-off, but certainly better off than most of the world. When do we have enough? When does it all become too much?

Listen to the last line of this morning’s Gospel one more time: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” So right away the parable is turned around and directed at all of us. And it wouldn’t be so hard to put that parable in modern terms, would it? Think of winning the lottery, only to know that the day you receive the check is the day you go home to the Lord. Or think of spending your days and nights in the office, building wealth and prestige, only to be part of massive layoffs when the company is sold. Or, even worse, spending your days and nights at the office, only to miss the growing of your family. So, Jesus asks us, what treasures have we built up? With what have we filled our barns?

Today’s first reading is from the book of Ecclesiastes, which in Hebrew is Qoheleth, who is the teacher in the book. Among the Wisdom books in the Scriptures, Ecclesiastes can be the hardest to read because it is almost prophetic in content. Qoheleth is the main character in the book, a man who is considered wise among his contemporaries, much like many of the popular wisdom teachers of his day. While we don’t know who Qoheleth was, the book is attributed to Solomon, the wise king. Solomon often wrote of the prizes that lay in store for those who were successful. But this book is a little different. Here he questions if it is all worth it, and challenges the complacence and dishonesty that run rampant in that society. If we didn’t know any better, he could well have been writing his words today, couldn’t he? In the end, though, Qoheleth’s message is basically encouraging, and brings us back to the God who made us. At the end of his book, which is not part of today’s reading, he says: “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.” (Ecc. 12:13-14) Which is exactly what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel.

St. Paul has a little bit of Qoheleth in him too, today. In the letter to the Colossians, which we have been hearing these past few weeks, he is trying to get that community to lay aside earthly things and seek God. Sounds like the message of Qoheleth, doesn’t it? “If you were raised with Christ,” he tells them, “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” In other words, stop filling your barns with the stuff that you accumulate on this earth, and be rich in what matters to God. Qoheleth, St. Paul, and Jesus are in complete concert today, and we must be careful to hear their message. St. Paul, typical for him, is very blunt about what he is asking us to lay aside: “Put to death then,” he tells us, “the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” And, “stop lying to one another.” We are called to be disciples who are pure, compassionate and truthful, because absolutely nothing else will lead us to the kingdom of God!

So, let’s look at Jesus’ instruction at the end of today’s Gospel parable: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” We have to ask ourselves, then, the very important question: “what is it that matters to God?” I think we know what doesn’t qualify – St. Paul made that very clear. I think the things that matter to God are those things we might count among our blessings: namely our family and friends. Those things that matter to God might also be the things that make us disciples who are pure, compassionate and truthful. So we might seek to be rich in prayer, rich in reaching out to the poor and needy, rich in standing up for truth and justice.

Today God is tugging at the heart-strings of the hoarder in all of us. What are we stockpiling? Maybe we need a look at our checkbooks, our calendars, and our to-do lists to see where our money, time and resources have gone. Can we take any of that with us if we are called home to God tonight? If those things are all we have, we could find ourselves in real poverty when we arrive at the pearly gates. This week’s to-do list might find us letting go of some of what we thought was important, so that we can be rich in what matters to God. These, brothers and sisters in Christ, are the riches that will not spoil and can never be taken away from us.

The Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

So often, when someone thanks us for something, we might say, “It’s the least I could do.” As if it were some kind of badge of achievement to do the least thing possible. I think it’s human nature to try to do as little as possible, without being perceived as lazy or something. Sometimes we want to do as little as possible, and have others feeling good about it.

Well, I think it’s that kind of attitude that is behind today’s Liturgy of the Word. Certain things are expected of believers, and over the course of history, people have tried to get away with doing as few of those things as they absolutely need to do. The first reading sets the stage: Moses places the law before the people and tells them that they are a great nation, because they have a God so close to them, and who loves them enough to give them the whole law that they have received.

Now the whole law is more than we might think. Perhaps when we hear that, we think of the Ten Commandments, to which we also are bound in our discipleship. But for the Jewish community back then, there were a total of over six hundred laws and precepts that made up the law. Because of that, there was constant discussion over which of the laws was most important, and often people would be concerned more about a tiny little precept than about the whole big picture that God was trying to accomplish.

This is the attitude Jesus came to address with the Gospel. He wanted the people to get it right. He wanted them to have concern for people more than for semantics in the law. He wanted them to love as God loves, because if you do that, you’ll be keeping the law anyway. But people didn’t always accept that teaching. If they did, Jesus wouldn’t have had to go to the Cross, and there would have been no need to preach the Gospel.

So in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes a major correction. There was a law of purifying vessels before festivals, which is not unlike the way the priest washes his hands before the Eucharistic Prayer or the way that the vessels for Mass are purified after Communion. But somewhere along the way, the precept got mangled, and everyone was bound to scrupulously wash themselves and every vessel they owned before a feast. And Jesus chastises them for having more concern about a human tradition than about the real intent of the law.

The real intent of the law was obviously something way more important, way more personal. The real intent of that purification was the purification of our hearts. Jesus gives a rather horrifying list of sins at the end of the Gospel reading and notes that these are the things that defile; not some dirt on the outside of a cup or hands that had not been scrupulously cleaned. If we want to really purify ourselves for the festival, which is to say the Eucharist, then we have to be cleansed of our sins. That’s why we have the Sacrament of Penance, right?

James, in the second reading, picks up on the theme. If we really want to be thought to be wise in regard to keeping the law, then we have to keep ourselves unstained by the world, which would be the same thing as Jesus was saying, but also to care for those in need, with which Jesus would certainly not disagree!

The thing is, we are hearers of the Word. We have experienced the love of our Lord in so many ways. Everything that we have is a gift to us. We have to be wise in regard to all that, and to be certain that we keep the whole of the law. Not just those little minutiae, but the very spirit of the law, the law of love which binds all disciples and all people of good will.

Because, as the Psalmist says today, it is they who do justice who will live in the presence of the Lord. And that’s just where we all want to be.

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It has often struck me that, the economy of our nation and the world being as precarious as it is, that being rich in what matters to God is more important than ever. With all the bad news out there – financial news, political news, news of epidemic diseases, war and terrorism, who among us hasn’t had the sinking feeling that this world’s riches are nothing at time but straw?

So you’d think that these times of uncertainty, people would be coming to Church, reconnecting with their God, and drawing strength from their faith, building up those riches that are from God. But you’d be wrong. All you have to do is look around and see that Mass attendance is nothing like it was in the past, that there are too many empty spaces in the pews.

In some ways it strikes me that we are quickly losing our faith, or even worse, that we as a society are becoming indifferent to faith, seeing it as irrelevant or ultimately meaningless. At a time in our history when we should be returning to God in droves, people instead are staying away in droves.

And it’s hard to live through uncertain times without faith. How can we ride the ups and downs of life with anything close to tranquility without the rock that is our faith? Instead we as a society seem content to look to the government to save us, while we continue to practice unprecedented greed. And to all of that, God warns us: we may just find ourselves wanting in what matters to God. If our lives were demanded of us this day, would we find ourselves rich or poor?

The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You’ve probably heard me say that these summer weeks of Ordinary Time give us a wonderful look at how to live the Christian Life.  I always say that the Scriptures give us a kind of “Discipleship Toolbox” that helps us to know what we are supposed to be about and how we are to live the Gospel.  The tool with which we are presented this week is pretty obviously the tool of wisdom.  It’s an important tool and it’s not all that easy to attain.  Wisdom is that wonderful virtue that is kind of like knowledge, but more about knowing what is right and wrong.

So think about it, God comes to you in a dream and says you can have anything you want; all you have to do is ask.  Ever since I can remember hearing that reading as a young boy, I have wondered how I would have answered if I had been in Solomon’s place.  It’s a question that I think is worthwhile for all of us to meditate on, because it says a lot about who we are and what is most important to us.

Clearly, Solomon already had what he was looking for, because he was wise enough to ask for it.  He was already wise enough to seek God and fear God and rely on God, and so God rewards him with so much wisdom, that his very name becomes synonymous with that great virtue.  And it’s wisdom that is in motion in today’s Gospel.

Over the past few Sundays, Jesus has taken time to tell us what the kingdom of God is like.  A couple of weeks ago, the kingdom was like seed that was scattered and sown.  Some fell on rocks, some among weeds, but some on the good soil that yielded more than anyone had a right to hope for.  The kingdom of God is something like that: the more we nurture and cultivate our life with God, the more we benefit ourselves and others.  Last Sunday, the kingdom was again like seed, which was carefully planted, but was interrupted by someone planting weeds too.  The landowner had the harvesters sort it all out at harvest time.  The kingdom of God is something like that: the good and the bad will all be sorted out in due time.

This week we have more images of what the kingdom is like.  It’s like the pearl of great price or the buried treasure.  In both cases, the one finding that pearl or treasure sell everything they have to obtain it.  In both cases, the treasure seeker is wise enough to see the value of what they are looking at, and they give everything to have it.  The kingdom of God is like that.  It’s worth giving everything to have.

But it does take some wisdom to recognize the pearl of great price.  Because lots of things out there are shiny and nice and tempting.  But they don’t lead to everlasting happiness.  And it takes wisdom to go for that pearl when you find it.  Because it costs something, well, everything really.  Just like the people in the Gospel sold everything they had to buy the field with the buried treasure and the pearl of great price, so we will be required to give everything to obtain the kingdom of God.

That might mean walking away from a business deal that is profitable but has bad consequences for other people.  Or perhaps it means giving up a relationship that is destructive.  We may have to give up a leisure pursuit that is enjoyable but separates us from family and friends.  We have to make choices, changes and decisions that amount to selling everything in order to make room for something that is of ultimate importance: that pearl of great price which is the Kingdom of heaven itself.

So think about it.  God gives you the opportunity to obtain anything you want.  What do you ask for?  What is it that you’d give everything to have?

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

In today’s first reading, King Solomon is asked a question that seems to me something like the fabled question that people get asked when they find a genie in a bottle.  Make a wish, and it’s yours.  Solomon has a relationship with the Lord, and so he treats the opportunity as something quite more than a chance to get rich quick.  Instead, he asks for the spiritual gift of understanding, which he knows that he will need in his ministry of governing the people Israel.  He gets that, and much more besides.

Jesus offers the Apostles an opportunity, too.  They were so busy, they had no opportunity to eat, let alone rest.  So he invites them on retreat: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  He gives them a chance to recharge, to rest and grow.  Meanwhile, Jesus continued the ministry of preaching and teaching.

So we too, have opportunities today.  Those of us gathered for the Liturgical Minister Day of Renewal have the opportunity to come away and rest a while, to reflect on what we do and why we do it, and why it’s important that we do it well.  We come to be fed by the Eucharist and nourished in prayer, we come to receive the gifts that we need to do our ministries well.

Opening ourselves up to our Lord today, we are asked what it is that we need.  For each of us the answer is probably quite different.  We may need to go deeper in the spiritual life, or we may need to learn more about the Liturgy and our faith.  We may need more time for prayer.  Whatever it is, our God presents us with the opportunity today.  Sometimes I think we underestimate God or don’t want to bother him, or we may even think we can do our ministry or handle whatever life throws at us alone.  But we can’t and we don’t have to.

God speaks to us today: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”  How do you answer?  Choose wisely.

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today’s reading from the book of Sirach lays down the basis of all biblical wisdom literature.  The basic premise is that we have been created good by God, who gave humanity everything necessary for survival, created and shared the wisdom to know and love God, and opened up the nations for their inheritance.  Humanity was given every possible advantage and blessing.  And so it is wisdom to cooperate with all of this grace, and to remain connected to God.  This God notices everything, “their ways are ever known to him.”

When you think about it, this is an incredible honor for us profane creatures.  We have been created in the wisdom of God, whose foolishness, we are told, exceeds our human wisdom.  So even on our worst days, we are still part of God’s wonderful creation, and we are always called to relationship with God who gives us everything we need.

Everything we need includes salvation, paid for at the price of the life of his only begotten Son, on whose body, blood, soul and divinity we are fed.  The strength of this heavenly food draws us more deeply into Christ who keeps us close to him.  The Psalmist sings of this wisdom: “The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.”  How blest are we who fear and love our God who made us to participate in his divine wisdom!

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today we begin a little excursion into the Wisdom Literature of the Scriptures.  The first readings this week will be from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, two of the strongest pieces of Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament.

Wisdom literature in general was intended to praise God and heroic virtue.  For the Jews, the source of this wisdom was from God himself. Wisdom literature in general used several distinctive forms, such as the proverb, the riddle and fables.  But in Hebrew, it is mostly the proverb that is common.  The proverb could distill the wisdom of the ages into a practical, memorable, pithy line or two that had a bit of sermon in it as well.  The proverbs had to be memorable because it was by memory that most of them were handed down across the generations and perpetuated in the society.

Today’s bit of wisdom is one that finds its praise in justice.  That justice consisted of concern for the needy among us.  “Say not to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give,’ when you can give at once,” we are told.  We are exhorted to keep peaceful lives, finding our path not in lawlessness but in uprightness and truth.

The Gospel reading gives us some of Jesus’ own wisdom.  That truth will eventually win out and all that is hidden will be revealed.  Nothing will be hidden but instead will be revealed in the light of God’s kingdom as a lamp on a lampstand.

So today finds us to be wisdom-seekers.  As we begin our study of the Wisdom Literature this week, we may indeed find that God is pointing out a path to us, one that perhaps we had not seen before.  May we all be open to follow that path to justice, knowing, as the Psalmist tells us, “The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.”

The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time [A]

Today’s readings

Think about it.  God comes to you in a dream and says that you can have anything you want.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  What would you ask for?  What is the one thing you’d give anything to have?

I think the reason Solomon was even asked that question was because God already knew the answer.  God already knew that what Solomon wanted was something that would be good for Solomon to have.  Solomon asks for a wise and understanding heart so that he could more readily lead the people God had called him to lead.  And so God grants his servant’s request: he gives him so wise and understanding a heart that there was never anyone like Solomon and no one will ever be as wise and wonderful as he was.

Solomon’s answer to God’s question told us what was of most importance to Solomon.  In today’s Gospel, we are asked to answer that same question.  Jesus speaks, as he has been for a few Sunday’s now, of what the kingdom of heaven is like.  A couple of weeks ago, the kingdom was like seed that was scattered and sown.  Some fell on rocks, some among weeds, but some on the good soil that yielded more than anyone had a right to hope for.  The kingdom of God is something like that: the more we nurture and cultivate our life with God, the more we benefit ourselves and others.  Last Sunday, the kingdom was again like seed, which was carefully planted, but was interrupted by someone planting weeds too.  The landowner had the harvesters sort it all out at harvest time.  The kingdom of God is something like that: the good and the bad will all be sorted out in due time.

Today the kingdom is like buried treasure or the pearl of great price.  The treasure is so great that when it is found, the treasure-hunter sells everything he has to buy the field.  The pearl is so wonderful that the merchant gives everything he has to buy it.  Can you imagine their joy?  What they have found is so wonderful that they give up everything to possess it.  Well, Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is like that.

But not just like that, right?  Because we know that worldly goods can never hold a candle to the riches of the Kingdom of heaven.  The success in our careers is nice, the nice things we have in our homes give us some pleasure, our accomplishments may even give us some pride.  But all of these will pale in the face of the joy of the Kingdom.

And so we have the invitation today.  We don’t have to look, because we have found the great treasure, the pearl of great price.  We have come here today to worship and to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.  There is nothing better on the face of the whole earth.  We know where to find that which is ultimately valuable.  But the fact is that we can come and go from this holy place today and still not have what’s truly worthwhile.  Because in order to receive it, we have to give up everything.  We have to sell everything and buy the field or purchase that pearl of great price.

That might mean walking away from a business deal that is profitable but has consequences for the poor or the environment.  Or perhaps it means giving up a relationship that is destructive.  We may have to give up a leisure pursuit that is enjoyable but separates us from family and friends.  We have to make choices, changes and decisions that amount to selling everything in order to make room for something that is of ultimate importance: that pearl of great price which is the Kingdom of heaven itself.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word leaves us with some very important questions.  What is the pearl of great price for us?  What is worth giving up everything?  How important is it for us to enter the Kingdom of heaven?  What is it that we must give up to get there?  Our prayer today is that we would be strengthened by the Word of God and nourished by the Eucharist so that we would have the courage to sell everything for the Kingdom of heaven, that pearl of ultimately great price.

The Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary time [C]

Today’s readings

Jesus tells us some things about discipleship today that, quite honestly, I think might make a person think twice about becoming a disciple.  The first two come right at the beginning of the gospel reading: “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.”  And then, right at the end, he says: “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”  He’s pretty clear: if we’re not willing to do these things, then we cannot be his disciples.

How does that make you feel?  Are you willing to hate those closest to you for the sake of the Gospel?  Would you take up your cross, knowing what happened to him when he did it, and come after him?  Think of the things that you have that you love: are you willing to renounce them in order to follow Christ?  Today’s Gospel is incredibly challenging, to say the least.  Maybe I should say it’s incredibly unsettling.  We might find ourselves totally willing to be Jesus’ followers, but at what cost?

And that’s the point of the parables he tells.  Who is going to build a building without first calculating how much it would cost to build it to be certain there is adequate funding?  Most of us have probably passed by some commercial buildings that started going up, only to be later abandoned, or that took quite a bit of time to build, possibly because the funding dried up.  So we’re not unfamiliar with the metaphor here.  Or if you were a military leader going into battle, don’t you estimate what the adversary is brining to the battle to be sure that you can be victorious?  Bringing it down a notch, think of a coach scouting out the other team to see how they play.

In any of these situations, it is absolutely necessary to calculate the cost.  Not to do so would be foolish.  The same is true of discipleship.  There is a cost to discipleship.  Those first disciples, almost without exception, paid for it at the cost of their lives.  Preaching in the name of Jesus was a dangerous thing to do, but they calculated the cost and realized it was worth it, and they did die.  Praise God for their faithfulness to the mission despite the cost; had they not been faithful we might not have the faith.

For us modern disciples, should we choose to follow him, there will be a cost too.  We might not get nailed to a cross as some of those early disciples did and have to pay for it with our lives.  But there will be a cross to bear.  We might have relationships that get in the way.  We might have things that we own that tie us too closely to the world and get in the way of our relationship with Christ.  Those will have to go.  That is the cost for us, and today we’re being asked if we are willing to pay it.

So how far do we take this?  Do we really have to hate our families?  Do we have to sell everything we own?  Do we have to take up the cross in such a way that we become doormats for those whose views are different from ours?  How much of the cost do we ourselves really need to pay?
We certainly know that Jesus – who loved his mother and father very much – did not mean that we were to alienate ourselves from our families.  But there may be relationships in our lives that are obstacles to the Gospel.  Maybe we’d gossip less if we didn’t hang out with people who brought that out of us.  That would certainly help us to be better disciples.  Maybe we’re in friendships or casual relationships that lead us to drink too much, or see the wrong kind of movies, or that draw us away from the healthy relationships we have.  Those relationships have to end if we are to follow Christ more fully.  Anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God and our ability to follow him in whatever way he’s called us has to go right now.  Ruthlessly put an end to it now, because otherwise we give up the life to which we are called, the life that is better than even these things that we might enjoy very much.

Our first reading speaks about God’s wisdom.  It’s so hard for us to understand that our own world most days, let alone understand the things of heaven.  We just don’t have the mind of God.  Our minds are very good, the best on the planet, but they aren’t enough.  Steven Hawking is one of the smartest people in our world right now, but when he talks about religion, he’s an absolute fool.  His current contention that the world doesn’t need a God to create it and run it is absolutely backwards, but that’s another homily.  The point is that we cannot ever understand the things of this world, or the world to come, unless God reveals them.  We have a deep and unquenchable need for his wisdom.  The more of it we have, the more we know that we need it.

God’s wisdom can help us to put our relationships, our possessions, the cost of discipleship, in proper perspective.  We have to beseech God day and night to give us the wisdom to live life the right way.  If we think we can go without it, we are fools too.  Wisdom is the tool that we are being offered for our discipleship toolbox today; we just have to gratefully accept it.

Our Liturgy of the Word today reminds us that following the Gospel on our own terms is not possible. The call to discipleship is one that calls us to step out of our comfort zone, leave behind whatever ties us to the world and separates us from God, and follow our Savior wherever he leads us. So if our only sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God is maybe getting out of bed and coming to Church on Sunday, then Jesus is telling us today that’s not enough.  It is a good start, but we have to reflect with wisdom on those things that are getting in the way, because it’s time we gave them up.

As we present our gifts today, God gives us the gift of wisdom.  How we live our lives this week will be the test of the way we’ve put that gift into action.