Wisdom 7:22b-8:1; Luke 17:20-25
In college one of my classmates was a man who it seemed was always a step ahead of me. While I was still learning one computer technology he was onto whatever was replacing it. I couldn’t keep up with him.
One semester we took the same class and it became clear to me that he wasn’t far ahead at all; he was actually much further behind. The problem was that he didn’t stick with anything long enough to finish it. He’d start a book, paper, or project but move on when something else caught his attention. When it came time for our final class presentations he was totally unprepared; he had nothing to say. He ended up dropping out of school. I felt very sorry for him.
Had I been wiser I would have stopped and contemplated the many ways I am that man. For one thing, my shelves are lined with books that got my attention for awhile but which I put down as soon as I found something else. For another, I catch myself tuning out a Scripture passage because I’ve heard it before and think I understand it. As if that isn’t bad enough, I sometimes pay the least attention to the people closest to me, assuming that they know I care so I don’t need to say it or act much like it.
Maybe this describes all of us to some degree. We begin a spiritual article on the internet and abandon it as soon as a flashy image catches our eye; scroll past bible verses and quotes from saints without contemplating them; spend hours searching for God online but miss finding him in our own families.
These are the modern-day equivalent of the behavior discussed by Jesus in today’s gospel. Expectations about the flash and bombast of the Messiah and his Kingdom, scant attention paid to the meaning of our Lord’s words, and eagerness to scan the spiritual horizon for something new combined to give the Pharisees and even some of our Lord’s disciples a kind of spiritual farsightedness; they looked at but couldn’t see either the King or his Kingdom there among them.
They did these things for the same reason we do: To gain the wisdom that will bring us closer to God and other people. The irony is that instead of bringing us closer they overwhelm us and keep us away. Discouraged by lack of results, some of us even abandon the attempt, drop out, or fall away.
No wonder. Internet scans, scrolls, and searches cannot bring the wisdom we need. As the first reading tells us, Wisdom is a spirit… Firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing… the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness (Wisdom 7:22, 23, 26). Wisdom is Christ, and his gift to us is wisdom as the fruit of the Spirit. A fruit born of the love of God, wisdom desires not only to be one with God but to see things as God sees them. Like any fruit, wisdom takes time to mature; its development a function of our life experience as seen through the lens of long-suffering that strengthens us to finish what we start, docility to listen as God speaks, and humility to remember that we are servants of God and each other.
Spurred on by these, spiritual wisdom helps us find the proper balance between searching for the Kingdom yet to come and living in the Kingdom here and now. We must do both, for the Christ who tells us today that the Kingdom of God is among us is the same Christ who teaches us to pray “Thy Kingdom come.” The balance can only be found through prudence, the virtuous midpoint between the extreme of finding too many paths to take and the other extreme of looking for none at all.
So let us pray for prudence, and that whatever path to God we find ourselves on we do what prudence dictates: Prepare for the coming of the Kingdom by tending to the Kingdom among us, and anticipate the glorious return of Christ the King by seeing and serving him in everyone we meet.