HOMILY – NOVEMBER 12
Remember hearing the screaming of a political fan of a candidate who backed out of the presidential race last year and pledged support for another candidate? “THIS HAS TO BE A JOKE! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! I’M LITERALLY ABOUT TO KILL MYSELF AND I’M NOT KIDDING! YOU BETTER FIX THIS RIGHT NOW! I’M LITERALLY GOING TO DIE, I NEED AN AMBULANCE! I CAN’T BELIEVE…” she shouted before the video cut out. And we’ve cut out all the expletives, which really manifested the profound nature of her ranting.
One year later, this past week, in fact, as reported by The West Village Patch in New York City, “A collective scream Wednesday marked a year since Donald Trump was elected leader of the U.S. Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered for the anniversary, crowding into Washington Square Park Wednesday night and howling at the top of their lungs.”
Regardless of one’s politics or views, it seems to me that these examples of venting rage display the complete opposite of what St. Clement of Alexandria wisely tells us, commenting on Psalm 37 in the third century: “‘Watch the wholehearted, and mark the upright, for there is a future for the one who seeks peace’; such will the one be who believes with the whole heart in a genuine way, and is tranquil in the whole soul.” Compare those words of wisdom with the utterances we recalled at the beginning. Now, much as I like to poke fun at political nonsense, it’s tragic to realize that for the vast mass of unbelievers, there is little one can do with frustration other than howl at the moon. And how ironic, that after all that communal wailing, New York was hit with an Arctic blast like it hadn’t felt for years. So much for any lasting effect of all that hot air.
Is it any wonder that there’s so much mental illness and suicide these days, especially among the young? They are so often being taught by peers and by the culture around them that faith in God has no relevance. As we said earlier, it’s no mistake that wisdom is always listed first among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is not prudence, and should not be confused with it. As the first reading says, “Taking THOUGHT of wisdom is the PERFECTION of prudence.” Prudence is a virtue, wisdom is a gift. With God’s help, we can ACQUIRE prudence by being calm and PRACTICING it, as we do with the other virtues. Prudence is in part the habit of being able to prioritize, and then act accordingly. But prudence in its perfection leads us to THINK of wisdom, and to see how we might, as the passage says, make ourselves worthy of her. Prudence means not being led by the latest fads, or by what’s trending online. Prudence means that we know we will be more apt to find guiding principles for life in studying the writings of Popes and the Lives of the Saints, than in the latest murmurings of Kim and Kanye. And if you even RECOGNIZED those names, I suggest you might begin your search for wisdom by spending just a little more time with the Popes and the Saints. We have plenty of material over in the school that’s there for you to use anytime, free of charge.
The funny parable Jesus tells paints a wonderful contrast between the calm wisdom of those who get it and the unhinged cluelessness of those who don’t. Ten ceremonial virgins or bridesmaids, according to Jewish wedding custom, gather to welcome the bridegroom to the bride’s home. He’s late. He’s at the bachelor party. He’s out hunting. Who knows? But he’s late. They all fall asleep. No difference there. The wise get just as tired as the unwise. The difference, of course, is in the pre-planning. Jesus often tells us that, if we’re going to be HIS followers, we have to be READY. Not just ready for death, not just on edge because something bad is going to happen, but prepared for EVERY opportunity to be of service, to give him the glory, and to proclaim his Kingdom. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, who was speaking of the duties of citizenship in his Inaugural Address, as Christ’s disciples we will “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to” spread the knowledge and love of God through Christ our Savior. And our love of Christ our Bridegroom will make us WANT to be ready, no matter when or how he arrives.
Love, prudence, more love, wisdom, more love — this is our pilgrim way with and to God and his Kingdom. The kingdom of this world is clearly a downward spiral of violence, sex abuse, accusations, gossip, he-said-she-said, fake news, false testimony, empty promises, and hopeless screaming — the Scriptural “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” It leads nowhere. We are IN that world to bring it the Good News of redemption and salvation; but we are not OF that world. Often without realizing it, and certainly without thanking us, the world is dependent on us to remain FAITHFUL to Christ, who is its ONE TRUE LIGHT! You and I reflect that light, and allow it to shine through us. Faith, prudence, wisdom, love — all of these help us to be tranquil in a world that has run out of the oil of virtue and common sense. Let us never fail to ask God for a greater share in these virtues and gifts that will help us to be faithful to our baptism and useful servants of those to whom he sends us.