17th Sunday A
26th July 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“I give you a heart wise and shrewd”
A lot of people pay a lot of money for good advice – experts in any walk of life do not come cheap.
A new government usually means a whole new group of advisors.
Golfers have their caddies who do much more than carry the bag.
It is more common now to find people who have a life-coach, someone they rely on to bring out the best in them.
In the life of the Church there has been a long history of spiritual directors separate from having a confessor.
So the hope and wish of getting good advice is nothing new – it is indeed as old as Solomon our friend in the reading from the 1st Book of Kings. It is from the same Solomon that the tradition of wisdom comes because in his dream when the Lord offered him his wish he asked “for a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil” given the responsibility entrusted to him as a young ruler. And because he did not ask for a long life or riches, he blessed him with a “heart wise and shrewd”.
Consider how this gift fits into our experience to-day. The highest value of all in our prosperous western society is our personal freedom – the right to say and do what we wish – within the limit of the law. This freedom is understood as a right and supreme value. We now realise because of the unhindered access to social media that the exercise of freedom in that unhindered way causes great hurt and harm to many people’s lives. That is because the right of self-expression needs to be balanced by other rights not least that of good reputation and freedom from abuse and vilification.
What Solomon prayed for was the gift of discerning judgement. He needed it then, we need it equally now in our lives individually, in family, in politics, in business, indeed wherever people are interacting with each other.
In all of Jesus’ parables we find a well of wisdom for living a good life if not a perfect one. In the Gospel St. Matthew shares several examples of Jesus’ encouragement to recognise this wisdom, this discerning judgement from people’s everyday experience.
The fisherman is a very good example – having hauled the net ashore – he patiently goes through its contents keeping the good and returning the rest to the sea.
The summary of Jesus pulls it altogether with the good householder who brings out from his/her storeroom things both new and old.
What this is saying to us is that the disciple of Christ to-day you and I is called to have the wisdom – discerning judgement, to draw what is best from our past join it with the best of the new to forge a fresh and current wisdom for our time.
Currently, we are intoxicated with being “progressive” with doing new things – with the real risk that we lose elements of our past experience that have stood the test of time. To ignore or dismiss this very real risk is foolish in the extreme – sadly only future generations will feel its impact and they will not thank us.
Covid 19 is very much still with us and is likely to be for some time to come. We have found it testing and frustrating in many ways we hear commentators speak frequently of its impact on our mental health and we should not underestimate that. Neither though should we underestimate our natural gifts and capacity to adjust and cope. The children and young people can have great resilience and adaptability. We should not stifle them or smother them.
Our mental health, for most people is closely linked to our spiritual health. While none of us can grasp the fullness of the Transcendent God, all have been blessed with a personal insight and understanding of the divine. In God’s design this comes to us through many and varied routes in life, for many it is music, poetry or some other dimension of the arts, it can be sports, nature or meditation and prayer. And sometimes it comes by way of a dream as it did for Solomon. What began as a dream was in time realised so fully and well that to this day we still yearn and pray for the wisdom of Solomon.
· the gift of discerning judgement
· a heart wise and shrewd