30/01/05 4th Sunday (Yr. A) I Cor. 1:18-25 [Matt 5: 1-12-1]
Who is the most respected Chinese person who ever lived? [Solicit answers. Hopefully someone will respond: “Confucius.”] Why is Confucius so respected? [His wisdom.]
Because of illness my dad left school after first year secondary school. He became a bricklayer apprentice. In those days the older bricklayers were reluctant to share their skills with someone who one day might compete with them for jobs.
Nevertheless dad completed his apprenticeship and went looking for work. As soon as the boss saw his lack of skill, dad would be fired. However at each job he observed and learned a bit more. Eventually he became a good bricklayer with a decent income. For many years he was assistant foreman. One day I suggested that he should “move up the ladder” and become a foremen himself. He answered: “The foreman gets a higher wage and more prestige. But the foreman always worries about whether the job will be done on time and that the workers might be slacking. He must take responsibility for firing workers when they don’t do their job. The foreman takes the job home with him at night. Whereas after work, I go home and relax.” Although he never finished school, dad was wise. He led a happy successful life.
Many westerners and probably most people in Hong Kong believe that the most fortunate people are the wealthy, the influential and the educated.
I am sure that many of these “fortunate” people are not only smart; they are also wise. At the same time, others of them are “worldly wise” and “life-stupid.” Or sometimes they know what they “should do” but do the opposite. When we read accounts of their lives we often discover that some of these “bright lights” considered themselves failures. Others were successful in one area but terrible failures as people. Frequently their family life was a disaster. They failed in the project of life.
Who is the most respected Chinese person who ever lived? Throughout the world, people respect Confucius. He is respected because of his wisdom. In today’s reading, Paul instructs the Corinthian community and us on the subject of “wisdom.”
WORD OF GOD
“Not many of you are wise, as men account wisdom…”
Corinth was a city much like Hong Kong. Corinth was an urban area, a little pimple attached to Greece. Corinth was a port city and an important commercial center. Corinth was a center of learning and culture. There were many educated people. There was a mixture of peoples from all over the world doing business. In a situation similar to Hong Kong, Corinth was under the control of the Roman Emperor. If there were be a political uprising, he might send in its army and punish the people. Any coming together of people, such as a Christian community, was a potential threat.
Around 50 C.E Paul had preached the gospel and formed a small Christian community in Corinth. He stayed there about a year and a half. And when he left there was a small community with its own local leadership. Five years later, it is estimated that the Christian community numbered about 200—very much smaller than our St.Patrick’s
community. Among the Christian community there were a few wealthy and influential persons. But the majority were simple folk. Most had little education. Some were slaves.
Some of the Corinthians looked down upon the members of the Christian community. Some of the Christians were embarrassed by this criticism. Other Christians tried to act like the “important people” They “put on airs”. Some Christians even considered Paul somewhat uncouth. They preferred more eloquent teachers like the fellow named Apollos. So Paul in today’s reading gives them a “talking to” on the subject of Christian wisdom.
The critics of the Christians thought they were “wise” because they were the wealthy, influential or educated. Paul counters: “Those arrogant educated, wealthy and influential people who make you feel like two cents think they are wise. But they are plain stupid. They have their human values mixed up. They don’t know what is truly important. They judge everything short term. They don’t see the “big picture”.
True wisdom, according to Paul, has a practical aim. It concerns people conducting themselves with prudence. Wisdom teaches us the art of living well.
But more importantly Christians live in a wholly new way. “You live in Christ Jesus who became for us ‘wisdom from God’…Christ-wisdom is for Christians ‘righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’” Nothing else amounts to “a hill of beans”. You share in the wisdom of God. You have a lot to boast about: “Let him who would boast, boast in the Lord.” It is the God, himself who “chose the lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something.”
RESPONSE: Do we as a Christian community actively pursue true
wisdom? Here are some ideas that will help us wise-up.
We associate with God in prayer. We read his Holy Word. We try to appreciate God’s way of thinking. How many of us have read the Book of Wisdom recently? This week we might enjoy reading some verses from the Book of Wisdom.
We associate with people who are truly wise. We read the works of the Saints as well as our modern day witnesses. The Saints knew how to both how to live and equally important how to die. Do we seek out the company of the wise? Who are the wise among our family and relatives? Mom? Dad? Grandmother? An uncle? A neighbor including non-Christians? Often there is much wisdom in the lowly, the poor, the disabled, the migrant workers and the powerless. Despite their lack of education suffering, they often have refined skills in the art of living. They have much to teach us about suffering and oppression.
For example, perhaps we will find wisdom in our Filipino domestics. They are humble because they know themselves. Despite their poverty and separation from their children and families, they know how to smile and laugh sometimes—unlike many of their employers. They are sensitive to needs of those around them. They know a lot about living.
We might also read the wisdom of our ancestors. The Holy Spirit might choose to speak to us through the writings of Confucius and people like him.
Do we begin out parish meetings with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for true wisdom? When we face a serious parish decision, do we read the Word of God and pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and strength. Or are we satisfied with a brief prayer before we get down to the “really important agenda”?
It seems to non-Christians that Christ’s death on the cross was not a result of wisdom but the result of stupidity. St. Paul admits: “The message of the cross is complete absurdity …[pause] to those who are headed for ruin.” Perhaps some of you have experienced suffering because you listened to Christ’s wisdom and it led to suffering. The answer lies in looking at the “absurdity” of the cross.
St. Theresa of Avila spent many years in the convent for many years. There was a crucifix hanging on one of the convent wall. She passed this crucifix many times everyday. One day, for the first time, she stopped and looked at this crucifix. She said that this “looking” changed her entire life!
Do we have a cross in our hme? Do I ever gaze at this cross? Will I stop and look at the cross today?
FINALE: If you wish to be worldly wise, raise your hand.
If you wish to be truly wise, look at the cross in our sanctuary for one minute.HOMILETIC NOTES AND STUFF
30/01/05 4th Sunday (Yr. A) I Cor. 1:18-25 [Matt 5: 1-12-1]
TEXT: “Not many of you are wise, as men account wisdom…” 1 Cor. 1:26 (NAB)
ONE WORD Wisdom
TOPIC SENTENCE: We resolve to pursue wisdom this week.REFERENCES
“This wisdom [in general] has a practical aim: it concerns man’s conducting himself with prudence and ability in order to [truly] succeed in life. Fallacious wisdom…judge everything according to human views…The art of living well… Xavier Leon-Dufour, Ed. Dictionary of Biblical Theology (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967) pp. 579-580.
“Christians have new existence in Christ Jesus who became for them ‘wisdom from God’…Christ-wisdom is for Christians ‘righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’” Jon Lambrecht, “ I Corinthians, William R. Farmer (ed), The International Bible Commentary (Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 1998) p. 1606
I am sure that each of you has many similar insights. My illustration may trigger you to recall your own personal experiences with truly wise people.When the U.S. went to war in Iraq I remembered dad’s word of wisdom: “When the husband and wife next door are quarreling, you are taking a great risk if you intervene. They will both stop fighting with each other and attack you.” Whether a person supported the war in Iraq or protested against it, we all regret the monthly casualty figures. I doubt that at the outset of the war if any of our government decision makers seriously considered dad’s piece of wisdom.
I was off the radarscope since last June. First it was my two-month furlough in the U.S. From September to December, my body and I hosted a series of maladies requiring hospitalization and a long recuperation.
Recently our Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples published the first volume of my booklets on the Social Teachings of the Church. The title is: Thou Shalt Think and Do. Adventures in the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church. The premise is that as Christians we have an obligation not only to do but equally important to “think.” If interested in purchasing, contact ACPP E-Mail: HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected], Fax: (852) 2712-0152 or TEL: 2712-3989. I think the approach is quite novel and is suitable for monthly meetings or for seminars.
Sa0405 January 30, 2005 Fourth Sunday (Yr. A) Cor. 1:18-25 [Matt 5: 1-12-1] PAGE 5