Sept. 5, 2010 — Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
The reading from Wisdom 9 points out, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” By our own mental processes, we have no way to figure out how God is working in human affairs to accomplish his purposes. As he spoke through the prophet Isaiah (55:8), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
God, however, has come to our help through the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives. “Who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?” Knowing God, we can be sure his thoughts, his ways, are good and intended for our blessing.
But why should we expect to understand God’s intentions? We can scarcely comprehend our own human actions and intentions. As Wisdom reminds us, “For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.” It is only with the greatest human efforts that we can understand earthly things; we can never hope, with our unaided reason, to understand heavenly matters.
Nevertheless there is hope! For God has given wisdom and sent his Holy Spirit. Indeed, the reading from Wisdom concludes that through God’s grace “thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.”
So maybe our deliberations don’t need to be so timid. Maybe our plans don’t have to be so unsure. Perhaps we can walk on straighter paths with decisive deliberations and more certain plans.
Not that we have complete control over our lives – we don’t have mastery over natural disaster, the economy, or even our health. But we can make conscious decisions that are definite and correspond to our intentions. It takes a willingness to seek God’s wisdom and make firm plans.
Jesus in Luke 14 urges us to evaluate our intentions and plan how to put them into practice. Using two examples from human life – someone figuring whether he can complete a building he’d like to build, and a ruler considering whether his forces can win a battle – Jesus makes the point we need to determine our intended outcome, evaluate our resources, and then commit them to our settled plan.
That same process should be the way we go about making our stewardship commitments. First, we decide that in gratitude we do want to offer back to God a portion of the time, talent, and treasure he has entrusted to us. Then, after asking for the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit, we evaluate how much of each we enjoy and what obligations we have. Then we calculate what stewardship commitment we are going to make for the next year.
And because human emotions are fickle, if we’re wise, we’ll write those commitments down, not so they will be legally binding, but because we’re more likely to complete our intended plans when they are on paper. Thus our paths as disciples are one step closer to being made straight.