Wednesday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Wisdom to Know How We Ought To Behave
Readings: 1 Timothy 3:14-16; Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 7:31-35
Do you ever encounter people faced with confusing situations or difficult decisions, who come to you for advice? What do you do? How do you try to help them? Of course, the most important thing is to listen with compassion, or what counselors prefer to call, empathy. After that, how one responds depends on the situation in question. Sometimes the thing to do seems only too obvious. At other times, even the one whose advice is sought will be stumped.
In my own ministry as priest and spiritual companion I often find myself having to avoid two extreme approaches. On the one hand, especially when the solution to the problem seems very clear, I have to fight the temptation simply to tell people exactly what I think they should do. On the other hand, especially when the problem seems all but intractable, when there seems to be no easy solution in sight, I have to resolve to still remain present to the person before me, even though there may be an impulse to disengage because there seems to be nothing concrete I can do to help. There are various reasons why it’s important to avoid these two extremes. And the main one is, I believe, to be found in today’s readings.
We notice what Paul’s concern is in the first reading. He wants his readers to know how people ought to behave in God’s family. And what is more interesting is what he does to achieve this goal. At least in this passage, he doesn’t so much tell people exactly what they should do in every circumstance – how could he? – as much as he seeks to remind them of the profound depths of the mystery of our religion. He reminds them of what God has done for us in Christ. He invites them to continue to contemplate the life of Christ and, in Christ, to discover for themselves the way they ought to behave, the choices they ought to make, in the different situations of their lives.
To do this, to look to Jesus for answers to life's questions, is not easy to do. It’s difficult enough to discover the connection between the mystery of Christ and our own situation. But what’s perhaps even more difficult is to accept, to be open to, the Truth when it uncovers itself to us. All too often, even when we know what we need to do, how we ought to behave, we may find all kinds of excuses to avoid doing it. Isn’t this what Jesus is saying in the gospel today about the people of his generation? No matter the form in which Wisdom comes to them – whether it be through the preaching of a strict ascetic like John, or through the more humane approach of Jesus – they are able to cook up some reason to reject it.
And yet Wisdom does not give up. In Christ, God does not stop reaching out to God’s people. God continually seeks to enlighten our hearts and to set our steps on the path of life. And often God chooses to do this through the supportive and loving presence of various people: friends, advisors, confidants, people willing to accompany others while they search, in the face of Christ, for the guidance they need, people like you and me.
How are we being called to do this today?