October 12, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Wisdom 7:7-11) Reading II (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Gospel (St. Mark 10:17-30)
In the first reading today we hear about Solomon, who prayed to God for wisdom. And God blessed Solomon because, as the Lord said to him, “You could have asked for a long life for yourself. You could have asked for the lives of your enemies. You could have asked for power and riches. But because you have asked for wisdom, I will bless you.” God granted wisdom to Solomon in a degree that no one else had ever had, and which no one, on the natural level, ever will. We look at what Solomon says to us about wisdom, about how he obtained it, first of all, how he prayed and he sought the Lord. He begged for wisdom and insight and prudence. He made wisdom more important than anything else. He recognized the true value of wisdom and he tells us that it was more important to him than power. “Wisdom was more important,” he says, “than scepter or throne.” It was more precious and valuable to him than the most priceless of gems, and that in comparison to her, gold is like a little bit of sand. There is nothing that can compare with the value of wisdom.
When we stop to think about this gift of wisdom which God grants to us, it is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gift of wisdom is infused into our soul at the moment of Baptism, but as with the other infused virtues, this one, wisdom, is given only in seminal form. As with all the virtues, then, it is up to us to make them grow, to make them develop by using these virtues and exercising them. Now the difference between wisdom and some of the other virtues is that wisdom is obtained through experience. Knowledge, of course, we get through learning. Understanding comes by putting things together in our minds, led by the Holy Spirit. But wisdom is a bit different; wisdom comes through experience.
In order to understand this wisdom we have to look at the first chapter of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians where he tells us that Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. And so if we truly want wisdom, we must seek Jesus Christ because He is the Wisdom of God. It is not like being streetwise where when we have experience of different things we have greater insight into how to protect ourselves and defend ourselves against things out in the world; but this wisdom is what makes us more like God. It is wisdom that is the true beginning of holiness. It is wisdom which will conform us into the very Person of Jesus Christ, because wisdom is the very Person of Jesus Christ.
So we can ask ourselves, then, have we sought this wisdom? Have we asked God for it? Have we sought it in our hearts? Have we begged Him? Have we desired this wisdom? Many of us might recognize the importance and the value, but we like to keep it at an arm’s distance because we know that if we allow Jesus too close to us we are going to have to change. And we are very much like the young man in the Gospel who comes to Jesus and says, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” Jesus said, “You know the commandments.” And after He goes through a number of the commandments, the young man, in a rather self-righteous way, says, “I have followed all of these from my youth. What else must I do?” He is basically just like us. He wants a pat on the back; he wants to be told what a wonderful job he is doing. But instead, Jesus looked at him – and Saint Mark says something that is very important, he says, “He looked at him and He loved him,” – and out of love for this man Jesus speaks the truth. He says, “There is one thing that you lack. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me.” And the man walked away sad. He wanted Jesus to tell him what a wonderful job he was doing. He wanted Jesus to tell him that basically he was already a saint. And what he did is that he looked Divine Wisdom right in the eye and he turned around and walked away.
Now if Jesus were to be standing in front of us today, we might be tempted to ask the same question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He would say very simply, along with the Church, “Confess your sins. Keep yourself in the state of grace. Live a holy life.” And we could say, “But I’ve done all that!” Then He would look at us the same way, and He might not say simply, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor,” although we are probably far more wealthy than this rich young man who came to Jesus today, but He would simply look at us and say, “Whatever it is that’s in the way,” – and He would know what it is in each one of us! – “get rid of it; then come, follow Me.”
It is evident that Jesus is important to us. You would not be here if Jesus Christ were not important to you. But just how important is Jesus to you? How important is eternal life to you? Just look at your day and ask yourself what it is that you are placing before the Lord. What is more important? For this young man it was his material goods. That could be the same for any of us. If we would spend as much effort trying to love God and love neighbor as we do in trying to accumulate more junk, just think how holy we would be right now. If we spent as much time before the Blessed Sacrament as we do before the TV set, think how advanced in prayer most of us would be today. If Jesus were as important to us as the comforts and the ease of life are, think where our spiritual lives would be today. That is where we really look at it and realize that we have come to the Wisdom of God and we have turned and walked away. Jesus is right there. The Wisdom of God is not far from any one of us. He is there every single day, 24 hours a day, and how many of us ever come to see Him?
Think of the effort we make to be able to get to anything that we want. I had to go out the other night and it took me more than ten minutes to drive two blocks because there was a hockey game going on down here and I did not know it and I got stuck in the traffic. So there were all those people, and then there were 60,000 more that were standing in line to see a football game. But on Friday night there was not one single person in the church. You see, we are willing to walk for miles to see a football game, we are willing to sit in a traffic jam for hours to see a hockey game, but we are not willing to make the effort to see God. We need to look very seriously at that because Solomon was given an extraordinary gift of wisdom, and he squandered that gift and Solomon became the biggest fool known to humanity. He used the gift God had given to him for his own selfishness, and he ignored the gift of God and he ignored the Giver of the gift. We have done the same, except we have God Who is the gift right here in the Blessed Sacrament. He is there for us, how many of us are there for Him?
What must we do to inherit eternal life? We must get rid of whatever is more important to us than God and whatever is more important to us than getting to heaven. And then we must follow Him. That is what He tells us. That is the true wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is not something that is outside of us. It is not something that is nebulous. The wisdom of God is a Person, and He is, as Saint Paul said in the second reading from his Letter to the Hebrews, the Word of God, Who is “sharper than a two-edged sword and cuts between joint and marrow, between soul and spirit, and everything stands naked before Him, before Whom we will have to stand in judgment.” We will have no excuse on the Day of Judgment. Each one of us has been given by God the greatest gift in the world: His own Son. We must be very careful that we do not become like Solomon, who had such an extraordinary gift and then squandered it. Imagine Solomon having to stand before God on the Day of Judgment and answer to what he did with this gift that God had given. And imagine what we will have to do on the Day of Judgment when we will stand before Him for Whom everything is laid bare. We will have to answer to what we have done with this gift that He has given to us, the Wisdom of God, the Word of God present among us in the Eucharist. What must we do to inherit eternal life? Live in the state of grace, get rid of whatever is more important in your life than Jesus Christ, and then come, follow Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.