14 November, 2019. Thursday of Week 32
1st Reading: Wisdom 7:22-8:1
Wisdom reaches from end to end and governs all things well
Wisdom is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.
Wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.
Responsorial: Psalm 118:89-91, 130, 135, 175
R./: Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Your word, O Lord, for ever
stands firm in the heavens.
Your truth lasts from age to age,
like the earth you created. (R./)
By your decree it endures to this day;
for all things serve you.
The unfolding of your word gives light
and teaches the simple. (R./)
Let your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
Give life to my soul that I may praise you.
Let your decrees give me help. (R./)
Gospel: Luke 17:20-25
The reign of God is not “out there” but is already among us
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.”
The invisible world
Wisdom is like a golden thread interwoven through life, which draws andinspires us toward God. This wisdom “penetrates and pervades all things.” It calls us to live with integrity, and to form healthy relationships with others, so that the grace of God can flourish among us. Honesty and integrity come through wisdom, which is God’s supreme gift to human kind. Our God as compassionate and good, always creatively at work in our world.
We may feel indignant at all of the injustice in our world and we would like to know how long it will all last. The Pharisees wanted to know: “When will the reign of God come?” but in his answer, Jesus shelves the question of when it will come, and focuses instead on how the kingdom of God is coming. The kingdom is not to be identified with a particular point of time, contrary to those who try to predict the end of the world on such and such a day. He refuses to locate the reign of God “here” or “there.” There is no all-holy place where God dwells, rather than in another. Jesus’ answer is baffling but also consoling: The kingdom of God is already here among us.
Within our hearts, God’s reign has already begun. Through our union with Jesus, we already have a foretaste of eternal life. From him we find strength to do what is right and to sense that all life is gift.”Oh world invisible, we see thee… Inapprehensible we clutch thee,” wrote Francis Thompson in amoment of heightened awareness. Sometimes we miss the sacredness of things; it is right before us but somehow we fail to notice. In answer to the question about when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus said, “it is already among you.” The kingdom of God was near, but in a less dramatic form than they expected.
Christ is present in our lives in more ways than we realize. His presence is undramatic, without fanfare. Yet his influence is present day after day, often through people who build up and encourage us. “I am with you always,” is his assurance that we will never be without his heling influence. What we need are eyes to see and ears to hear, with faith. We also need to pray, “Increase our faith.”
About two centuries before Jesus, the belief surfaced in Israel that God has created us with something imperishable, a spark or portion of the divine nature itself. Each human being, regardless of race, gender or wealth, has a spark of the divine. We begin life created in God’s image and will end it by discovering our full identity, when Jesus Christ returns in glory and welcomes us to the afterlife. In between, we trudge or jog along the path of life. In God’s mysterious ways, our time on planet earth allows us grow more fully into the divine image. Wisdom, that latest of our Old Testament books, has this understanding of life. It praises those who sacrificed their lives for their ideals. God tested them like gold in the furnace, then took them home. Life is a testing-place, a furnace that refines the divine image in us.
The parable about the master and the slave mentions practices and conventions which are not acceptable today; but Jesus drew a lesson simply from what he saw around him. He refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. The master would not necessarily say thinks for work well done, because the slave had only done his duty. Of course, this was not endorsing slavery. Rather, the Gospel undermines oppressive structures by affirming the dignity of everyone. What God has in store for us will surpass our merits. It is a comforting thought that God blesses us much more than we deserve.
Some guru-psychologists of today would urge us to take full pride in who we are, and affirm our own ego to such an extent that at the end of the journey we can say with satisfaction “I did it my way.” But there is a harmful form of pride listed among the seven deadly sins, as something we have to keep in check. The more good we think we have done, the more we are tempted to pride, to seek the limelight and be admired by others.
Today’s gospel calls for a less arrogant approach, for a greater modesty about our achievements. Jesus warns against that tendency to be foo full of ourselves and declares, “When you have done all you ought to do, say, ‘we are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty’.” In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee displayed his virtues and boasted of the good life that he lived. He seemed to think that his good deeds gave him an absolute claim on God. But he was wrong.
The concept of merit is a dangerous one, although it serves well enough in judging human behaviour on a day-to-day level. No matter how well we live, no matter how much good we do, the grace of God remains a free gift. The good news is, we don’t need our own merits in order to have God’s favour. God loves us and shows that love by giving us his Son. In response to love, we try to serve faithfully, by doing his will, as we discern it. Our service of God is simply the right thing to do, following our best human impulses.