(23rd Ordinary Sunday: Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9-17; Luke 14:25-33)
Usually the first reading is selected because it has some connection with the Gospel of the day. But it is hard today to see what that might be.
When Jesus tells us to hate our parents, siblings and ourselves, we quite naturally think that he can’t mean literally what he is saying. Isn’t it Jesus who preached love of enemies? Surely this must be just one of his enigmatic sayings.
That may be, but it is not quite so strange as it appears. The two short parables about building a tower and preparing for battle make the same point. It would not make sense to start building without being sure of the means to complete the work. It would be foolish to call up the militia if there is little hope of victory. It’s a question of elementary human wisdom.
Herein lies the connection with the reading from Wisdom, which is part of a very long prayer attributed to Solomon. “The deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans,” he says. Without God’s gift of wisdom, Solomon could not hope to govern well; but he trusted that the Lord would guide him.
All the great cultures have had teachers of wisdom. Some philosophers have had a profound influence on their societies; many of the ancient thinkers are still studied and analyzed in our own time, while new philosophies strive to find their place in the history of thought.
Jesus was also a wise teacher, but he was more. He insisted that his followers must rely on him alone; they must be ready to give him their all, even if that means carrying a cross. This is not abstract philosophy, but wisdom of a very practical kind.
We see this also in the discourse of Our Lady of La Salette. She uses concrete examples—her people’s violation of the commandments, the consequences of disobedience, the hope of abundance, God’s constant caring presence in our lives—to teach the lessons of true discipleship.
In today’s psalm we pray: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” In taking us to task, the Beautiful Lady did not intend to frighten us but rather to help us envision a careful plan to live out our Christian commitment.