Sunday, 27 July 2014
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
As many of you are aware, I've been on holiday, and before that I was on my annual retreat. And when on retreat, as usual, I spent days of in silence, prayer, and self-examination before the Lord. This year my particular petition, the thing I was asking of the Lord in a specific manner, was that I might grow in love for my parishioners, love in the form of compassion.
Now, that might seem a pretty obvious thing for me to ask for, 'love' being the most important of all the things I could ask God for -after all, charity is hailed as the “Queen of the virtues”.
And yet, what did we just hear King Solomon ask for when he was told whatever petition he requested wold be granted? He didn't ask for love, instead he asked for wisdom.
So, if I was as wise as Solomon, shouldn't I have asked for wisdom not love?
Let me throw you another thought: There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Seven gifts given to us that we might be perfected -but not one one them is charity! Four of them concern the intellect (counsel, understanding, knowledge, wisdom) and this is what Solomon was asking for: Wisdom.
So, Solomon didn't ask for love, he asked for wisdom. Why is wisdom so important?
Well, let me note that love has a ‘form’, a ‘structure’ if it is to be TRUE love, and wisdom gives us that form. The Holy Spirits gifts form this within us to ENABLE us to love, even if love itself isn't one of the seven gifts.
As many of you can remember, the 1960s refrain was, "All you need is love".
And a lot of unwise behaviour has been followed from the 1960s onwards (and before) becuSe of an unthinking understanding of what 'love' is.
Love is not just a feeling, a sentiment, there is true and false love.
To give a child everything it wants, because you want it to be satisfied, this is not true love.
To lecture a child continually all day long, because you want the child to learn, this is not true love.
True love has a balance, a ‘structure’ -as I just said.
Let’s come back to Solomon, and consider WHY he wanted to be wise: he didn't want wisdom as thing in itself, so he could sit in a lotus position, feel smug about him knowledge, and be by himself. No, he wanted wisdom IN ORDER THAT he might govern the people well.
Wisdom is ordered to something else. In his case, ordered to good action in government.
In general, wisdom is ordered to that right action that blossoms in love. If it is true wisdom, it will lead to true love. And if wisdom is lacking, there will not be true love -just a well-intentioned but misguided sentiment.
And, on a point of detail, the four intellectual gifts of the Holy Spirit concern different types of 'knowing' with respect to theoretical and practical things, with respect to earthly and heavenly realities.
To bring this to a practical focus: What does this mean for ourselves?
I doubt that there is anyone here who doesn't realise that they need to love.
We need on one level to have God's inner help to strengthen us to give ourselves in love
-and so inner strength, 'fortitude' is one of those first three gifts of the Holy Spirit that help us to do this in different ways.
But, what today's reading from Solomon should remind us is that, if we are to love, we don't just need the inner strength from God to do so, but we need to PRAY to Him for the inner wisdom to know true and false love, the wise and the unwise ways to be affectionate to our neighbour.
As the prayer of Solomon in the book of Wisdom prays, "Lord, give me the wisdom that sits by your throne"(Wis 9:4)