Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time (I)

Sirach 1:1-10 / Mark 9:14-29

The quest for wisdom, something which many of us, especially those of us serious about our faith, pursue, seems in light of the Scriptures to be doomed from the start. Sirach reminds us that God alone is wise, which rather puts the whole quest into question. After all, we are not God, we cannot hope to number the sand of the shore or the stars in the sky. Indeed, the rather dim prospects for our achieving wisdom appear to be confirmed by the Gospel's record of Jesus' coming down from the mountain. Here we see the disciples, those who have been living with, been taught by, and been commissioned by Wisdom Incarnate himself to proclaim the Good News, unable to free the poor boy from the mute spirit, and altogether at a loss to understand why. Here we see the scribes, who ought surely to have some share of wisdom from their dutiful and regular study of God's holy Law, nonetheless finding in the disciples' failure a reason to confirm their own stubborn rejection of the Christ. Even the father of the unfortunate boy, while confirming a kind of faith, exhibits in his request — If you can ... — a deeper failure, a deeper confusion about who Jesus is and what it means to seek out his help. Not even the crowd seems to understand anything more than that wherever Jesus and the scribes meet up, there will be something worth seeing.

However, there is another path to wisdom apart from human achievement. Wisdom can come to us not as an accomplishment, but as a gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is out of love that the Holy Spirit endows us with gifts, those special graces by which we are made supple instruments, responsive to the most subtle and slightest of influences from the Comforter. Through the gift of wisdom, we are given a share in the divine perspective of things, the chance, if we follow the Spirit's lead, to see things as God sees them because we have been enflamed by that same Spirit to love as God loves.

As this wisdom comes to us as a gift, it is ours not by nature or by right, but only to the extent that we remain personally related to the Holy Spirit. Said differently and simply, it is only by prayer that we can be wise. Only by being accustomed to the movements of the Spirit's presence within us, only by recognizing without confusion the voice of the Spirit who speaks to us in prayer and indeed prays on our behalf, can we be led to the wisdom we seek.

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