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.