(Audio recorded live, 9 October 2021)
Wis. 7:7-11; Ps. 90; Heb. 4:12-13; Mk. 10:17-30
The Book of Wisdom speaks to us of the kind of disposition we should have before God. The passage we heard today begins with prayer and turns to pleading. There is a distinction to be made between these two kinds of requests. A prayer is an earnest petition, and in the legal sense, a plea is a statement of defense before a judge. The author then lists everything that pales in comparison with wisdom: Scepter and throne, riches, gold, health and beauty, none of it can compare with the immense value of wisdom. The plea the author is making is that he seeks only wisdom. He also acknowledges that for those who seek wisdom, all good things come together in her company. Therefore, those who have this disposition of prayer and pleading before God, sacrificing the riches of this world, will inherit the Kingdom. As St. Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others” (Rm. 14:17-18).
Our Psalm shows us how to respond to God in prayer, asking the Lord to fill us with love, to teach us to number our days aright, and to prosper the work of our hands. The work we are encouraged to do is not for personal gain alone, but for the community of believers. By working together through prayer and service, we help build the community up in love.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that our hearts are an open book to God, and that the word of God is living and effective. In other words, when we hear the word of God proclaimed at Mass, or when we study Sacred Scripture, the Word is present among us. And hearing that Word is efficacious, bringing about a conversion, a transformation, a change of heart, or a deepening of our knowledge and understanding, which are the precursors to wisdom. No one is born wise, we must acquire it. Part of that is having a disposition of prayer so that we may be open to receive it. We can pump our minds full of facts, or learn to repeat bullet points, but what good is it if we do not integrate what we learn into our life?
Jesus’ encounter with the rich man shows us the man’s lack of wisdom and his attachment to the things of this world. While he followed all the commandments, he realized there was still something missing. Jesus exposes his attachment to possessions and invites him to give it all up to follow him. The rich man went away sad because he could not let go of his possessions. The funny thing about possessions is that most of the time we think we own our possessions, but how often throughout life do our possessions really own us? It seems the more possessions we have, the more anxious we are about them. Jesus invites everyone to assess their level of attachment to riches and the things of this world because where we are going is really out of this world. And as Jesus tells Peter, “there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age….” Therefore, the most valuable possession we can seek to acquire is wisdom, especially knowing that all good things come together in her company.
In his first Letter to Timothy, St. Paul instructs Timothy to exhort those who have become attached to riches, saying, “Tell those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be proud, and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth. Let them trust in the God who provides us richly with all things for our use. Charge them to do good, to be rich in good works and generous, sharing what they have. Thus will they build a secure foundation for the future, for receiving that life which is life indeed” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
And so, as we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist, the very source of our Christian life, may the communion we share give us the right disposition of prayer and pleading, asking our Blessed Lord to help us grow in virtue that we may receive his gift of wisdom and all the good things that come together in her company.