My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you had never entered a church before in your life and most of your friends had never entered a church before but your only experience of believers was off the TV, what would be your perception of church going people? I imagine the perception would be that most of us are simpletons. Think of the character Net on the Television show The Simpsons. He’s a geeky guy with a whiney, high-pitched voice who uses phrases like, “Son of a Didley” instead of swearing. But, Ned also supports his church and his minister and is always willing to give a helpful hand to his neighbors, the Simpsons, even though they seem to always accept his help and then take advantage of his generosity. In many ways, he’s the definition of a simpleton.
There was a time when a religious person would have been portrayed very differently. Recently, I’ve had a chance to watch the shows Going My Way with Bing Crosby and The Trouble with Angels with Jane Russel and Haley Mills. These shows from a bygone era show priests and nuns and religion in general as a place for intelligent and moral people. In fact, the whole point of those movies seemed to be that wise people affiliated themselves with religion while the dregs of society who cared only for themselves fought against it. Today, it seems like you have to shut off your brain to believe in God, or at least that’s the way Hollywood would have you believe. I’m afraid we’ve confused something very fundamental, something that makes us different than most Protestant denominations. In fact, the confusion is so widespread that even some priests get confused about it. The confusion centers around the idea of faith. Some believe that faith is a “best guess scenario.” It’s something an individual has to guess at. You look around in search for proof and, when you can’t find any, you make a “leap of faith.” The only think you can trust is the Bible or, as they may say it, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
For Catholics, faith and wisdom are inseparable. If our faith contradicts wisdom, then one must be in need of a new appropriation. But it must be authentic wisdom not the kind that was praised in the first reading today, which I call knowledge not wisdom. One can have knowledge but not be wise. Think of the professor that knows everything about the way the Universe works but would likely leave for work without wearing pants if a loving spouse didn’t lay them out each day. Or the sports figure who knows everything about the game of football or baseball but couldn’t put together a grammatically correct sentence if Ms. Manners had a gun to his head. These folks have knowledge but not wisdom.
A wise person grapples with difficult questions and is never satisfied with simple answers. She or he realizes that atheism is true futility, true foolishness. Instead, a wise person opens herself or himself up to the possibility that there is a God and then tries to get into a relationship with him. They look at the Bible as a helpful tool that tells us about our ancestor’s relationship to God but they also recognize it’s not a purely historical document. They live life differently that those who do not believe in God, as a consequence. They live life as though Christ could come tomorrow. Indeed, they live as though Christ could come right now and we’d be prepared. That means that we show love to our neighbors, especially those who are oppressed. We live life in order to reach out to those who are not wise in order to let them know where true wisdom resides, in the heart of Christ.
True wisdom is built on vigilantly waiting for God, which is why Hollywood has it so wrong. It’s not we who believe and patiently wait for Christ’s return who are simple. It’s those who give up on God like the five foolish bridegrooms in the gospel who are simple. We who have the faith, hope, and love of Christ and await his return in glory are the truly wise ones. Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.