In search of wisdom
A reflection for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Tomas Michael
In some movies and plays, there are certain characters who play a small role but leave a lasting impression on the viewers. The Bible has a few similar characters, and for me, the rich young man in this Sunday’s Gospel makes it to the top of my list.
What a marked contrast there is in the way he enters and exits the scene! He runs up and kneels before Jesus and asks him the question that was bothering his heart: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His enthusiasm is exemplary. His financial abundance neither prevents him from asking pertinent questions nor from remaining true to the teachings he has received from childhood.
When Jesus points to the Commandments as the doorway to the answer, his response is even more astonishing: “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” An onlooker would have thought, “This guy will be an exceptional disciple!” However, Jesus looks at him with tender love and says, “You lack one thing. Go, sell everything you have to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
At that, the man’s countenance falls, and he goes away sorrowful. What a tragic and anti-climactic moment! What a lesson to learn! One may have a good upbringing, be morally upright, enthusiastic, confident, and financially rich, and can still lose heaven if just one thing is lacking. I do not agree with the viewpoint that his riches were the problem, for we do have quite a few saints in the Church who were financially well off. Our clue to that "one thing" may lie in the first reading, which opens our eyes to what he lacked – wisdom! Wisdom, one of the seven gifts of the Spirit, helps us to perfect our intellect in its grasp of the highest causes or, to put it simply, "helps us to see things from God’s perspective".
There was our young man, standing before someone wiser than Solomon himself, before Wisdom himself, listening to how he can become truly rich. This young man may even have heard time and again the rabbis' teaching in the synagogues on wisdom, for the Old Testament has a whole genre of books that exalts wisdom called the "Wisdom literature". Yet seeing his response, we must suspect that despite all his external appearances, he was perhaps wearing his religion only on his sleeve and his heart had not yet been permeated with the truth that faith contained.
In 1 Kings 3:3-15, we read about Solomon asking for the wisdom to govern his people, not caring to ask for things of the world. And we see a pleased God, granting him not only wisdom but along with it, the riches of this world. Our souls delight upon hearing how God answered his prayer and how the spirit of wisdom was bestowed on Solomon.
The writer of this Sunday's first reading narrates how Solomon cherished wisdom more than any other thing, including wealth, health, and beauty, and how all good things came to him along with her. Today, the Lord is gently inviting us to see if our hearts echo similar sentiments. The Bible calls the rich man who wanted to build a bigger barn, a "fool" (Luke 12:20). And is not foolishness that very lack of wisdom that seeks to sideline God and see the finite things of this world as absolutes? Or in other words, wisdom is that divine gift that God pours into our hearts that helps us to see all created things as mere signposts pointing to the very highest end, which is God himself. It was precisely this wisdom that our young man lacked.
For those whose hearts echo after Solomon's, those seeking to grow in divine wisdom, the word of God is a mighty source. The second reading illumines to us what sacred Scripture does. When we prayerfully read and meditate on the Word, we encounter the powerful light of the Scripture, which lays bare the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Confronting disordered attachments and selfish attitudes in such a manner is immensely beneficial to the human person. Since wisdom accompanies sanctifying grace, we must sincerely take recourse in God, to keep us free from venial sins which weaken our inner treasury of grace and from the mortal sins through which we lose grace.
How wonderful and secure it is to sail our ships in this world, guided by the wisdom of God, which helps us to make choices according to the perfect will of God. Meditating on and living out the Scriptures stirs up within us the desire to turn our backs to sin and to lead a life for the greater glory of God. This in turn makes our hearts more receptive to growing deeper in wisdom and yearn for more of her.
Jesus is looking at you tenderly – just like he looked at the young man. He gave his whole self to you so that you can give your whole self to Him and live in true freedom! Do you experience a tug of war in your heart as you contemplate this?
Start praying for wisdom earnestly. Everyone needs this divine light to guide them away from the allurement of the world and to lead them into the resplendent treasure Christ offers – one that does not spoil, never goes out of style, and cannot be stolen.
The readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Tomas Michael is from Trivandrum, India. He is married to Seenu, who is a lecturer in French, and has three teenage children: John, Elisa, and Michelle. He is a part of Jesus Youth (an international Catholic movement approved by the Holy See) and a member of its International Formation Team. After a career in the banking industry for two decades, he took voluntary retirement to serve as a full-time missionary for the movement since 2014.