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Sunday Scripture: Developing a heart of wisdom

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33

Now that summer is morphing into fall and being transformed into the gorgeous colors of the new season, we might be looking back at the journeys of the past few months with fond memories of happy times and beautiful places. It may also be good time to look at our Gospel reading and reflect on the messages it gives us.

The passage is taken from a section of Luke’s Gospel that is called the “Journey Narrative” (Luke 9:51 – 24:53). As the text begins it says Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem. He realized that the days were drawing near for Him to make His exodus journey back to His Father’s kingdom. The evangelist used the form of a journey to gather together teachings of Jesus from the time of His historical presence with His disciples. Our reading presents conditions to be considered by those who would be Jesus’ disciples.
At this point in the narrative Luke uses strong hyperbolic language to emphasize the total love that a Christian needs to develop for Jesus if he wishes to be His disciple. Neither Jesus nor Luke would have wanted members of the community or their families to hate one another. That’s a use of parabolic exaggeration to call the reader to total love of the Lord and His ministry.
How do we know that? We can look at the parallel passage in Matthew that reflects the meaning behind the expression. A person who loves anyone, even family, more than the Lord would not be worthy of the Master (Matthew 10:37). Besides that, Luke himself speaks of Jesus’ emphasis on the great commandment of the law: love of God and love of neighbor (Luke 10:25-28). The Gospel message teaches us to include all in our love. Others are not eliminated from being loved. Rather, a right order is set in that love.
Luke’s passage goes on to mention other dispositions one needs for discipleship.  All of us are familiar with the notion of bearing our own crosses in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a hard thought, but one that is part of the human condition. Part of that same human condition is the futility of human calculation when we are trying to come to grips with God’s will for our salvation.
The first reading of the Mass from the Book of Wisdom reminds us that the reasoning of mortals is worthless and our designs are likely to fail (Wisdom 9:14). But the writer of Wisdom also gives us the way out of the dilemma.  God himself gives us wisdom, also called His Holy Spirit, so that our paths on earth can be set aright. It is through the gift of wisdom that we learn what pleases God and experience His saving will in our journey to the heavenly kingdom (Wisdom 9:17-18).

With the psalmist we can pray that we get a heart of wisdom. We can ask God to give us His steadfast love so that we can rejoice and be glad all our days (Psalm 90).
Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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