HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY (YEAR A)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Who would love to have wisdom? I guess everyone would; me too. Many people talk about wisdom, but giving it a unified definition has not been an easy project. Can you try to define wisdom without consulting a dictionary or search engine? These may leave you more confused by telling you about knowledge and sagacity, which are lower than wisdom.
Necessarily, it would take a bit of wisdom to find the hidden path to wisdom. This assertion about wisdom resonates with the liturgy of the Word for this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). The First Reading (1 Kings 3:5,7-12) tells us about the encounter Solomon had with God in a dream where God allowed him to ask for just anything, and it would be granted.
Solomon had the opportunity to ask for a lot of things, including long life and wealth, but he requested for an understanding heart to distinguish right from wrong to lead the people of Israel better. God loved his humble and wise request and promised to endow him with the gift of wisdom and other blessings.
What is Wisdom?
We still need to have an active understanding of wisdom in this reflection. Wisdom is not the same as thing as knowledge though it involves knowledge. High intelligence quotient does not translate to wisdom; one can be a genius without having wisdom. Furthermore, speech eloquence alone is not evidence of wisdom.
Wisdom is more profound than emotional intelligence, which talks about the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and those of others, and It is also deeper than social intelligence that examines how to build and maintain social relationships.
Wisdom is spiritual intelligence. It is a gift from God that helps us to understand what is in the mind of God about something and moves us to act accordingly. The Book of Job says that the fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding (Job 28:28). God is the author of wisdom, the Book of Wisdom (9:4ff) says that wisdom sits by the throne of God and seeks what is right.
The description above brings us back to Solomon’s answer to God: “an understanding to distinguishing right from wrong.” Putting all these together, we understand that wisdom is a divine facility that fundamentally helps us to make the right choices by distinguishing good from evil. We could recall Solomon’s judgment between the two women claiming ownership over a child and the young Daniel’s wisdom that saved the life of Susanna.
Wisdom and the Kingdom of God
In the Gospel Reading (Matt 13: 44-52), our Lord gave three relatable parables to describe the kingdom of heaven. The first likens the kingdom of heaven to a hidden treasure in a field that someone finds, covers, and selling off all possessions, comes back to buy the area. The second likens the kingdom of God to one in search of fine pearls, and finding one sells everything buys it. The third relates the kingdom of God to a net that catches different types of fish, but coming ashore the good are separated from the bad ones.
Looking at the parables of the kingdom of heaven, one can see how they relate to wisdom. In the first instance the individual finding the hidden treasure did not steal it. Wisdom would always show us the right thing to do. So, the person takes the legitimate step by selling off everything to buy the land and so gets a proper ownership of the treasure. Often times people think that outsmarting others is wisdom.
Furthermore, wisdom is like a hidden treasure of great value. In life, most valuable things are hidden like precious stones and metals. Even in the human body, the most useful parts like the heart, liver, kidney, and lungs are hidden, and we may never see them till death. Wisdom is not what anyone can pick up from the roadside. One obtains wisdom by digging deep into God.
The second parable talks about a beautiful pearl that a merchant buys by selling everything. Here we see how wisdom relates to elegant pearls. Pearls like precious stones and metals do not stay on the surface. Pearls are found on oysters at the sea bed. They come iridescent and refined, so they are of great value, and any merchant who finds one would love to buy and sell at a higher cost.
Any attentive Christian should be on the search for the wisdom to enter the kingdom of heaven, like an ideal merchant searching for pearls. The search should relentless and resilient the same way the wise men sought for the Lord (Matt 2:1-12).
Finally, we have the net that gathered all sorts of fish before the fishermen separated the good ones from the bad ones. I did not know that not all the fish in the river are edible until I made my first catch as a little boy scout. It was a large fish, but I was asked to throw it back to the river because nobody can eat it. Wisdom helps us to distinguish the good things from wrong ones through the process of separation. Those who make kingdom of heaven are those who are distinguished from the lot.
Wisdom, like Solomon prayed, helps us to separate good from evil; in other words, it helps us to make the right judgment in every situation. Wisdom, like the kingdom of God heaven, provides the divine facility of filtering to separate the worthwhile from the worthless.
Before we end this reflection, it would fit for us to pause and ask ourselves what we truly need in our lives. We indeed need to sustain our life here on earth using some material resources; however, we need wisdom for us to achieve the ultimate purpose of our life on earth to be with God eternally.
In the Book of Wisdom (9:6), Solomon said, “for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from You, he will be regarded as nothing.” We can see here that our lives will count as nothing without wisdom. In the serenity prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr says: “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
May the divine wisdom help us always to know the difference between what we want and what we need. We all need the wisdom to make the right choices that will lead us to the kingdom of heaven.As you pray for various need in your lives, do not forget to pray for wisdom, you need it to make the kingdom of heaven. God bless you.