32nd Sunday (A)
8th November 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Wisdom is bright and does not grow dim”
Good advice is priceless. It is much sought after and people pay a lot of money for it. It explains why the expertise and knowledge of lawyers, doctor, psychiatrists, psychologists and consultants of all kinds is greatly valued and much sought after and is expensive too.
It should come as no surprise to us that there is a book of the Old Testament by that title from which our 1st Reading is taken. It forms part of a tradition of Wisdom Literature /Writing which is full of nuggets of wise sayings – not unlike our seanfhocail – insights packed into a few lines – which form part of our thinking and conversation too.
The Greek word for wisdom is Sophia – one often given to girls at Baptism because wisdom in the Old Testament is referred to as feminine and when reading the references to wisdom one could easily replace wisdom with the Holy Spirit and you can see yet more easily the link between the Holy Spirit, wisdom and right /good judgement.
My friends, the need and desire for good advice, wise counsel, leading to good decisions is a constant in all our lives. There are day to day decisions that almost make themselves out of good habits we have cultivated. However, there are other key decisions which are less frequent which we need to face – ones which take more time and deeper thinking about. These decisions require discernment.
Discernment is a word that is often heard from Pope Francis. He draws it from his Jesuit background in the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Discernment for St. Ignatius and Pope Francis is done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – whereby we are helped to purify our mind and heart of any dark or evil intent or motivation. Put simply, it is our effort to separate the good spirits from the evil ones.
When times are calm and things going smoothly there is little need for major decisions or discernment. Not so in turbulent times when the future is so uncertain. Not unlike the bridesmaids in the Gospel parable – waiting in the dark, all with their lamps but only some ready and prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom. The lesson of the parable is to “Stay awake, because you do not know the day or the hour”.
One of the features of this Covid 19 time is the emergence of conspiracy theories of all kinds which are adding to the anxiety and fear of many. We need to treat these with great caution. We need to learn from the long history of this phenomenon both within and without the history of the Church. Even St. Paul had to reprimand some Christians in early Church who abandoned their work in anticipation of the return of the Lord Jesus.
In virtually every generation some apocalyptic happening was deemed to be imminent, inevitably generating great fear and anxiety. Right now in the global uncertainty an amalgam of catastrophic events are being forecast – round Chinese/Communist domination, the manipulation of Climate Change along with the growing control of communication by a few giant tech companies. These developments, along with other tensions between nations, generate real worry and concern. Covid 19’s personal and economic impact adds to those worries.
The world cries out for good leadership to steer humanity through turbulent waters. Our yearning is for wisdom, a voice that speaks calmly but firmly and with integrity. A voice like Francis who has no vested interest other than the good of the human family.
In a time of peril and danger it is not enough to have just one who is alert and awake. That is a responsibility that each person, from the young to the elderly, must embrace for the sake of one another.
It is foolish of us to speak of Christmas celebration as we have been accustomed to. It simply will not be possible. But celebrate we can and will in another but safe format. So stay awake, stay alert – take personal responsibility, think of the risk for others. Live fully in this present moment.
Be wise and prudent about the conspirators and the God of peace will be with you as guide and protector.