WORLDLY RICHES AND WISDOM

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            We can see in today’s first reading and gospel reading the play between worldly riches and wisdom. We hear these words in today’s first reading: “I pleaded and wisdom came to me.”  “I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her, because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand…”

            These words talk about Solomon. They refer to him. Read the story of Solomon from the First Book of Kings. There is no king in Israel who had greater wealth, riches, and power than Solomon. He is presented as “the greatest of the King of Israel.” Solomon, however, finds wisdom better than all the riches and power he has. All the pile of wealth and power is nothing compared to the gift of wisdom.

            In the Bible, wisdom means “seeing life from the perspective of God.”  It means having an intimate relationship with God by which one understands the true meaning of life; thus, one is enabled to live his or her life according to God’s plans and purposes. This is what Solomon refers to as better than gold and better than the goods of the world.

            The principle is this: When you have wisdom, when you see the world from God’s perspective, then, you will know what to do with what you have. When you have wisdom, you will know what to do with your material wealth, resources, and possessions; with your political power, control, and dominion; with your social status, influence, and privilege; with your intelligence, genius, ability, and talent; with your physical health, strength, and beauty; with your time, energy, and availability. With wisdom, you will know what to do with the goods and riches of the world – that is, how to use them according to God’s plans and purposes.  Paraphrasing the words of Meister Eckhart: Wisdom, as a gift from God, consists in knowing the right thing to do, doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in doing it.

            Having stated that principle, we go to today’s gospel narrative. A rich young man approaches Jesus – saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Here is a person with so much material riches and possessions, who has the goods of the world (been enjoying them). But he realizes that the goods of the world are not eternal. He implicitly knows that they are not enough, He knows that they do not satisfy the deepest longings of the heart.

            That is why he approaches Jesus and asks that very important question. He has the right spiritual instinct which makes him search for the eternal value and long for eternal life. He also has the fundamentals of a good person: he does not kill; he does not commit adultery; he does not bear false witness; he does not defraud; he honors his father and mother.

            However, the basics are not enough – as Jesus says, “You are lacking in one thing.” “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Jesus is somehow telling the rich young man: “It is time for a radical choice, for a radical move.” “Set those things aside, let go of the goods of the world, and follow me to the Highest Good.”

            However, the gospel tells us, “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” This makes Jesus say – I am sure with sadness: “It is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” This is not a condemnation of the rich nor of material riches and possessions. Jesus is simply underlining the danger of allurement and attachment to the goods of the world. Why? Because they can become a hindrance to our entering the kingdom of God.

            That is why we must ask for the grace of wisdom: to be able to see life and the world from God’s perspective and to live according to his holy will. With wisdom, we will be able to use the goods of the world according to God’s plans and purposes. With wisdom, we will be able to make the radical choice of selling what we have and giving to the poor to follow the Lord Jesus – freely and faithfully.    

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