We are invited to consider prayerfully in today’s liturgy for the apparently
uncomfortable grace of following Jesus. The Master presents us with a new
form of wisdom which does take some time to make our own. Humanly speaking
we think we know what is best for the “good life.” We pray for the
humility to accept that we do find it hard to figure out the important things.
We can pray as well for the grace of governing and not merely in the political
sense. Each of us has many forces and powers which need consult, temperance,
gentleness and a strong sense of what is right. Governing is what parents
do, teachers do, and anyone in authority does. We pray that God’s Holy Spirit
can guide us and that we have the desire to govern as God does, with compassion.
We hear a reflection by King Solomon who, in the verses before the ones we
hear makes a humble petition for wisdom. He feels burdened by his role as
leader of God’s people and having to build a temple which is to be a perfect
reflection of heaven.
So what we hear is a thoughtful and a bit depressing poem on how difficult
it all is to know the mind of God. The things of the body and earth are so
timid and limited.
The last verse though is a proclamation of hope that God does send human
beings help with a spirit of true wisdom which guides, comforts and inspires.
Solomon has a bit of Jeremiah’s “poor me” spirit until that last verse. He
desires to respond to God as did his ancestors Abraham and David. It
reminds me of the song that the king sings in the musical, The King and I;
“Tis a puzzlement!” Are we left to our own devices? We humans have the desire
to know it all, but our bodies, our humanity is like an encore which weighs
the mind and spirit down, down, down. It is good to remember that Solomon
is saying this as a prayer-complaint. God is not saying his reflection and
words are true. In Scripture prayer-complaints are usually ended with a boast
of hope and trust. They seem to form the framework for such a prayer of fidelity
and child-like surrender.
The Gospel pictures Jesus, having left the banquet to which he had been invited
and during which he spoke directly of a higher invitation and how some might
excuse themselves from responding.
We hear some very direct and dramatic words which Jesus offers again as invitation.
These words can seem to make Jesus too demanding and actually cruel in regard
to family relationships and solidity. “Hating” father, mother; what does
this mean? How are we to “hate” our own lives when Jesus came to love us
and asks us to love our being loved by God?
The Gospel has too little imaginative pictures of the value of having the
goods to get the job done. Then Jesus says that anyone wishing to learn more,
that is becoming a student or disciple, must let go of everything in order
to be a true follower. If one were to read these verses alone, Jesus would
not seem attractive. We need some encouragement to let go of everything and
begin to build and wage war to completion. Jesus is offering a new
kind of “wisdom” and at the end of this chapter Jesus does invite those who
have ears to listen to its depth and import.
I was sitting on the shore of a quiet lake one early morning recently delighting
in the silence and beauty. Slowly, into my consciousness like a little
bug at first, came the sound of a motorboat. My silence was being invaded;
my space was being desacramentalized. The boat kept coming towards my prayer-perch
and eventually zoomed right past me. As the noisey intrusion diminished
and my temper did the same, the waves of the boat’s wake spanked the shore
and I smiled.
Jesus was and is still a bit like that and we see it clearly in today’s Gospel.
He came to disturb us with the noise of his wisdom. The waves remain beating
against our resistant shores. We do not like our space, our comfort-spots
to be rearranged. His Wisdom has practical implications and asks for the
orientation of total following.
I often ask myself and the congregation of the parish with whom I celebrate
the Eucharist, “What of all that Jesus says, do I not want to hear?” I have
ears, but I have “shores” and a comfort-place which loves the familiar. “Hating
family” seems like a tidal wave knocking us over and down. Who can figure
it all out? We need the wisdom, not of Solomon, but that of the Spirit for
which Solomon prays.
Jesus gets the attention of his listeners which is his normal way. He speaks
to the very heart of parent/child relations which were the center of cultural
life then. Jesus did not nibble at the edge of what was held as important
and sacred. Honoring father and mother was a religious and secular centerpiece.
Jesus in a sense says, “Well, now that I have your attention…” Simply, Jesus
is offering a wisdom which places fidelity to the reality of God as the highest
principle or condition of true life, the “good life.” Loving our parent,
siblings, everybody will flow from knowing and living in the prime relationship
with God from Whom all love flows. What Jesus is asking us to let go of is
making anything, any person, any philosophy into a god. Parents and children,
siblings and friends should lead each other to the experience that God alone
If we wish to be a disciple, and that is a question worth pondering on whatever
shore you might find yourself, then you are invited to a life of being
disturbed by the motorboat of Jesus and the waves of his teachings. I was
clinging to silence and beauty and my space and as many times before, Jesus
zoomed right into it all and left me smiling with how many little gods he
has washed right out of my hands and heart. There are still more and every
time I pray I begin hearing his far-off buzzing. Is it love to leave me alone
or is love the blessed-bugging of his constant wave-making?
“Like a deer that longs for running streams,
my soul longs for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for the living God.”
Ps. 42 2-3