Daily Reflection
May 16th, 2005

Eileen Burke-Sullivan

Theology Department
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Memorial of St. Andrew Bobola, S.J.
Sirach 1:1-10
Psalm 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5
Mark 9:14-29

The liturgy of the Church today returns to Ordinary Time, following the closing of the Easter Season with the Great Feast of Pentecost. In the outpouring of God’s Spirit one of the most precious gifts we receive is the gift of wisdom. Today’s first reading invites us to meditate on wisdom and her power in our lives.

Wisdom is nearly always characterized in feminine terms in the Old Testament and is sometimes described as a lavish hostess who has laid a banquet with her abundance, which is one of many analogies for the Eucharist. In today’s reading, however, we find that wisdom gives us the power to see created reality as God does. To recognize the height and depth, the width and breadth of all that is. Is this reserved only for eternity? Or is this gift really only given to the mystics?

The Church’s tradition insists that the Spirit of wisdom is granted most particularly through the Sacrament of Confirmation, but where ever there is an outpouring of the Spirit, Wisdom is the first gift. It is perhaps also the highest of the Spiritual gifts, for what we can “see” we can know. Thus to see with God’s sight is to know – especially to know the truth; the truth about created realities, the truth about our own hearts, the truth about God, and God’s infinite compassion.

It seems to me that this is a gift we desperately need in a cultural context that all too often wants us to be content with lies. Oh, it isn’t that people are deliberately scheming behind our backs to keep reality of being known, but rather that the truth is often too “harsh” for our tender sensibilities to absorb. A number of years ago, while teaching high school in an academy filled with “young ladies of material means” I was charged with communicating the Catholic Social Justice teachings to them. In an assignment, I had them keep track of all the money they spent or that was spent on them for a thirty day period (obviously their parents had to cooperate in this venture). When they accomplished this, they were assigned to look up the statistics on annual family incomes for a family of four in three different countries of the world that happen to be described as “third or fourth world nations” by economists, and draw some comparisons with their own personal budgets. At the end of the exercise we spent several classes discussing their findings and the experience they had of making the discoveries about themselves and their world. It was not a process the girls enjoyed as they priced their prom gowns, limo rental and other incidentals of spring social events, and one young lady said it best when she cried out in some anguish: “I don’t want to know this stuff – I want to be ignorant so I can enjoy my parties in peace!”

Perhaps this anguish is too like the demonic spirit of today’s Gospel. It binds us with deafness, renders our speech inarticulate and blinds us. Ah, lady wisdom, don’t give us your lavish gifts . . . if we know the truth we will feel compelled to act with courage and compassion . . . how will we enjoy our parties, our new toys, our befuddled self images. How can we bear the truth when it will make our lives so uncomfortable!

“Oh faithless generation!” Jesus chides us. “How long will I endure you?” Does he speak so to us who have squandered the gift of Wisdom that the Father poured out through him upon us? Since only prayer will drive out such demons – let us pray.

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