FEBRUARY 23, 2011: WEDNESDAY OF 7TH WEEK- Sir 4:11-19; Mk 9:38-40

HE WHO LOVES WISDOM LOVES LIFE; THOSE WHO SEEK HER WILL BE EMBRACED BY THE LORD.  These words from Ben Sirach, the learned and devout Jewish wisdom teacher breathe an air of freedom of spirit. What does love of life lead to but the expansive experience of freedom! The final phrase of today’s Gospel spoken by our Lord to his disciples reveal an even broader, trusting attitude toward life and human relations. “He who is not against me is for me.” With these boldly expressed sentiments our Lord implicitly asserts his right to claim all honest, loyal human endeavor as contributing to his cause. Although observance of the laws of holiness and obedience to the six hundred and thirteen prescriptions that were incumbent on orthodox  Jews might seem to create a narrowness of mind and rigidity of character, yet the instances of Ben Sirach and especially of Jesus, the best representatives of persons formed in traditional Judaism, are marked by a refreshing openness to life and to God’s creation.

 

The wisdom traditions in Israel permeated Jewish life from early times. The emphasis on hochma (wisdom) is present from the days of the Patriarch Joseph. It is given increasing prominence in the elaboration of the law through Moses and taken up by the prophets and wisdom teachers whose teachings are recorded in the Bible. Like all human traditions and activities hochma and its related terms hochem and hachmot, took on a variety of meanings, depending on the areas of life and activities to which they were applied. A wise goldsmith produced his works with great skill; a wise physician knew what drugs to employ at the appropriate time. Above all the truly wise person was spurred on in life under the influence of respectful desire to follow God’s law. The high esteem for hochma in Jewish life led to an emphasis on formation and education that persisted through the centuries and continued through the New Testament into our own day. It is no accident that the Jews have a disproportionately large influence in various fields where learning and skills are decisive.

 

The Evangelists present Jesus as possessing a skillful knowledge of the Scriptures that surpassed that of the learned leaders of his people. Saint John understood the identity of his person to be best described as Logos, which means both Word and Reason. The Greek logos has universal implications for all that is has its proper logos, whereas the Word made flesh is the transcendent reason. Saint Paul has a similar insight so that in writing his first letter to the Corinthians (1:25) he denotes Jesus as “the power and wisdom of God.” He went further and stressed that Jesus “has become for us the wisdom from God” (1:30). He even went on to point out that merely human wisdom is severely limited in its scope and value when we consider the whole of man’s life  To rely on science and technology as guides for life, he maintains, is foolishness (moria). The warning he gave to his Corinthian converts applies even more stringently to us in our times.

 

Where is the wise man? Where is the learned? Where is the researcher into this present world? Has not God made foolish this worldly wisdom? For in the wisdom of God the world has not known God through wisdom. . . We preach Christ crucified, a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to pagans, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

 

            At this Eucharist we give thanks to the Father that He has revealed this deep wisdom to us and called us to witness by our lives to our faith that Jesus is in all truth the guide and light that gives direction and meaning to the whole of our life. This Eucharistic sacrifice is the source of strength and wisdom that enable us to persevere in the love that is true life.Ω   

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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