July 26, 2020 –
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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I Kings 3:5,7-12  +  Romans 8:28-30  +  Matthew 13:44-52

… all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

Ten centuries before Christ, the son of David became the King of Israel.  Solomon was a young man.  He recognized his lack of experience and lack of ability to govern Israel.  Yet the Lord told Solomon that any gift he asked for would be given to him.

Solomon could have asked for wealth, since with immense wealth he could buy off any kingdom that got in his way.  Or he could have asked for absolute power, since then he could destroy any opposing kingdom.  He could have asked for any number of things.  He decided to ask for wisdom.

Wisdom is insight into the ultimate meaning of things.  This becomes clearer when we reflect upon the differences among wisdom, intelligence, and what we might call “smarts”.  Even computers can be smart in terms of recalling facts and calculating equations.  But intelligence transcends smartness, just as a computer cannot transcend its programming.  Intelligence goes beyond what is known through a desire to explore the unknown.

Wisdom, however, transcends intelligence because it ponders the ultimate meaning of things.  Wisdom explores the origin, the nature, and the goal of everything that is, culminating in the contemplation of the Most Holy Trinity.  This divine wisdom is a gift of God the Holy Spirit.

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that St. Paul’s words in today’s Second Reading ring true:  “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”  This purpose we need to recognize as God the Father’s providential will.  This divine, providential will converges in Christ.  St. Paul explains this as he continues:  “those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn”.

However, before the advent of this firstborn, the Jewish Scriptures already held seven books called “Wisdom Literature”:  the Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Song of Songs, and Sirach.  The Wisdom of Israel was unlike the wisdom taught by many ancient cultures.  It’s also unlike the conventional wisdom according to which Western culture operates today.

The Wisdom of Israel isn’t based upon self-interest or self-promotion.  It is founded upon nothing and no one other than the Lord God Himself.  If God is part of our lives, then even if our life seems a puzzle, we have reason to hope.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t understand every piece of the puzzle.  God teaches us, over time, to move this piece of the puzzle over here, and that piece there.  Over time the picture God has had in His Mind all along emerges.

All this might make divine wisdom sound rather lofty, other-worldly, and as a consequence, impractical:  good for monks and nuns, but not so for the layperson on the street.  But wisdom is not some “pie in the sky” virtue.  It’s eminently practical, especially in our world today.

When individuals live for themselves, discord grows:  first in families and then in communities and nations.  This is why St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summary of Theology ascribes the seventh beatitude—“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”—to the Holy Spirit’s gift of Wisdom [ST II-II 45,6].  In our world today the teaching of St. Thomas on this point is sorely needed.

He notes first that a peacemaker is one who makes peace either within himself or in others.  In either case peace results from setting all matters in due order.  The highest form of order can only be seen, however, and therefore set in place, in view of divine wisdom.

Second, the reward of peacemakers is that they become children of God.  St. Thomas here quotes from this Sunday’s Second Reading.  In making peace, one shares in the likeness of God’s only-begotten Son:  or in the words of Saint Paul, one is conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  This divine Son is “Wisdom Begotten”, St. Thomas points out.  On the Cross, Jesus makes peace between His Father and sinful man.  Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of this “Wisdom Begotten”.