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July 23, 2017 - Praying That We Might Pray

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I am going to begin my homily with a few sayings: “A jealous ear hears everything, and discordant grumblings are no secret” (Wis 1:10). Here is another one: “A great number of wise men is the safety of the world” (Wis 6:24). One more: “Our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred because it is fixed with a seal; and not one returns” (Wis 2:5). The last one: “Age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, not can it be measured in terms of years” (Wis 4:8). All these saying are from he book of Wisdom, the book from which our first reading is taken. 

In today’s reading, the author engages in a monologue with God and in the process describes God. We get the sense that the author is in prayer. The bottom line is this - that the author is able to enter into the depths of the mystery of God and life because of the gift of wisdom. He eagerly and ardently sought wisdom and he was given wisdom (Read Wis 7:7-12). As he would say, “If riches be a desirable possession in life, what is more rich than wisdom who produces all things” (Wis 8:5). I would like to focus on today’s reading from the book of Wisdom and using the other two readings, suggest some practical implications. 

Here are my three points for today: 

  1. The Holy Spirit of Wisdom. Let me begin with today’s second reading. Paul says in the letter to the Romans that “we do not know how to pray, but that the Holy Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings…” This point is very well attested in today’s first reading from Wisdom. The author is able to pray in the words that he did because of the wisdom that has been given to him. The point being made is almost ironical - that in order to know God, we need God (the Holy Spirit). We do not know how to pray. We cannot do it on our own. Only God can let us more deeply into who God is. I am proposing as a practical implication that we take the time this week to read Wisdom chapters 9 - 12. It is hard not to appreciate the insights the author has into the divine mystery. It is precisely at this moment that we can seek the Holy Spirit and Wisdom like the author of the book of Wisdom did. Wisdom is a gift. The harder we seek it and the more we desire it, the more the possibility of us being gifted with it. 
  1. What Can I say about God? If you do decide to read Wisdom 9 - 12, you will notice the depths of the divine mystery that the author has entered into. For example, he says profound words like, “For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity. But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.” Each one of us has been a believer for as many years as we have been. Without comparing yourself with the author of the book of Wisdom or the great mystic, if you had to address God in the way the author has done, what would that look like? What would you say to God? What would you say about God? if you could write you own book of Wisdom, what would that read like? For those of you who are genuinely looking to grow in your relationship with God, it takes this kind of effort to get some results. That precisely is the point of all the readings today - that the mysteries of God and life are available to any of us. However, we must desire and seek it from the very depths of our own being. 
  1. Praying That We Might Pray. Today’s gospel reading in intricately connected to the first and second reading. The gospel readings for the last weekend, this weekend, and the coming weekend, are parables of Jesus. Jesus deliberately choose to speak in parables. As he himself says, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.” These parables are not the easiest to understand or interpret. Even the disciples ask Jesus to explain the meaning of the parables to them. In other words, we need wisdom to understand the parables. Wisdom tells us that parables are not about themselves.They are about gaining understanding about life, about God’s place in our lives, about our place in the God’s life, about understanding the universe and its mysteries. Parables help us to look at life from God’s perspective. This is the hard part - that we take time from life to understand life; that we make a genuine effort to gain wisdom so that genuine effort can put in the right places; that we pray… so that the Holy Spirit can help us to pray. 

The Spirit that gives us the gift of wisdom is the same Sprit who transforms the bread and wine in the body and blood of Christ. Let us as the Holy Spirit to come into us so that we can worship and pray as we ought. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph