DECEMBER 14, 2007 –ST JOHN OF THE CROSS: IS 48:17—19; MATTHEW 16:19
WISDOM IS VINDICATED BY HER WORKS. The connection of this saying of Jesus with the parable of the children who refuse to offer a friendly respond to either sad or joyous invitations, is not at all evident at a first hearing. No doubt it was clear enough to Matthew and evident for those whom he expected to be readers of his Gospel. The very obscurity of the connection for a modern audience causes us to reflect on the passage in its larger context. As we do so, the coherence comes into sharper focusd. Wisdom here is another term for Jesus himself. Paul, some decadcs before Matthew had witnessed to the early tradition that identified Jesus as the embodiment of a wisdom that surpassed that of the philosophers, and brought to its fullness the wisdom teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures: “We preach Christ crucified–a stumbling block to Jews, and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:23–24)
Wisdom is vindicated by her works in the person of Jesus, who had repeatedly performed miraculous works in the service of mercy that could only commend his person to those with well disposed hearts. His adversaries had displayed a hardness of heart as they rejected the invitation to respond to the prophetic message, in either form it assumed. Whether delivered first by John Baptist in the form of a call to conversion and penance, and then by Jesus with the joyous announcement of the kingdom of God, the Pharisees and Scribes, with carping arguments, repeatedly resisted the call extended to them, though the signs of its heavenly origin were clear for those with oculata corda, (hearts with eyes to see), to use a phrase of Saint Aelred. Before long, as a result of this cold and blind refusal, wisdom would be vindicated by its chief work, the crucifixion and resurrection. This was the wisdom that Paul announced to Jew and Greek alike and which shines through the whole of the teachings of Saint John of the Cross whom we commemorate today in this liturgy: “We preach Christ crucified–a stumbling block to Jews, and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Jesus’ in today’s Gospel expresses with this parable his judgment of those who proved unwilling to accept the evidence given him by the works of wisdom he repeatedly performed.
Each of us encounters day by day this same voice of wisdom inviting us to join with her true children by participating in her works, above all, by opening our heart to the cross of Jesus, and placing our joy in his resurrection. By this Eucharist in a particular manner, we make this response our own and ask the grace to carry it through in the course of our daily life. X
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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