July 3, 2011 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel sound like the perfect excuse for the pupil who hasn’t studied, don’t they? “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” If God’s revelation is the most important thing we can know, and he has hidden it from the wise and learned, isn’t it the best thing not to become learned and wise?
Of course, that is missing the whole point of what Jesus is saying. It’s the attitude that counts. Does someone want to appear wise in order to win great honor? Then she is going to miss what’s really important, because she has been devoted to worldly wisdom. Does someone seek to gain great knowledge in order to have power over other people? Then he is going to miss what’s really important in the Kingdom of God.
In the matter of knowledge, then, as in so many other areas of life, God’s standards are just the opposite of what our fallen world values. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Is 55:8). That’s one of the results of the Fall: it’s not just a matter of individual sinfulness. The whole standard by which mankind judges is topsy-turvy unless it’s corrected by God’s revelation received through grace.The prophet Zechariah responded to God’s revelation in the First Lesson for today. When everyone else was looking for a Messiah who would come with power, overthrow Israel’s conquerors, and defeat all her enemies in battle, he proclaimed the opposite. The Messiah would ride not a warhorse but a donkey. Weapons of war would be banished, and he would proclaim peace to the nations.
St. Paul wrote from a different angle but with the same message. He was concerned to make sure that the early believers in the Church at Rome realize that Christian living is achieved by following the lead of the Holy Spirit, not by following what our instincts, tainted by sin, urge us to do. His phrase for living by our fallen nature is “according to the flesh.” Therefore he wrote, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” He was referring to our eternal life with God in heaven, our ultimate home.
So how do we begin our journey to seek the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of the world? Praise and thanksgiving are an essential first step. This is reflected in the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 145) where our response is, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.” The stanzas of the Psalm are filled with such acclamations as “Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you.”
How does this teach us wisdom? Because when we’re praising God and thanking him for the blessings he’s given us, we cease to focus on ourselves with all our needs and desires. We turn our attention to God and all he does for us. When we realize that everything we have comes from God, we discover this applies even to the time, talent, and treasure that have been entrusted to us. Then, because we grasp that God is the source of all we have and that we are dependent upon his goodness, we learn true wisdom and become willing to share as good stewards the things we have received.