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What does it take to be wise?

Two friends are sitting in a bar watching the 11:00 pm news. A report comes on about a man threatening to jump from the 20th floor of a downtown building. One friend turns to the other and says, “I’ll bet you ten bucks the guy doesn’t jump.” “It’s a bet,” says his buddy. A few minutes later, the man on the ledge jumps; so the loser hands his pal a ten-dollar bill. “I can’t take your money,” his friend admits, “I saw him jump earlier on the 6 o’clock news.” “Me, too,” says the other buddy. “But I didn’t think he’d do it again!”

Practical wisdom is something we learn from experience: a normal person is wise enough to know, as they say, that ‘you don’t learn anything by being kicked by a mule twice.’ But a foolish person endures the pain of banging his head against the wall over and over again. When asked why, he says, “I was hoping for a different result. “Like the loser in the bar, the foolish person does not learn from experience.

Today’s 1st Reading from the Book of Proverbs personifies Wisdom as sending out an invitation to the simple to forsake the way of foolishness so as to live and advance in the way of understanding. The Hebrew Testament contains 7 books of wisdom, all designed to teach the Israelites how to conduct his or her life so as to obtain true happiness. So it is that St. Paul in the 2nd Reading says to the Christians at Ephesus: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”

If we want to be wise and truly know what life is and how we are to act so as to be really happy, then we will learn from Jesus. For Jesus is, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians “the Power and Wisdom of God.” Because of Who He is, Jesus can answer the three questions about life posed by the famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant: “What can I know? What must I do? What can I hope for?”

While human reason can know many things and even come to know that there is ‘a god’, only Divine Wisdom can help us to know “the God”. It is Jesus who teaches us to know God as Father, Himself as the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Without Jesus we could not transcend human reason and come to know who God the Father is and all that He wants to do for us. So the wise person will be like Mary, the sister of Lazarus. She did, as Jesus said, “choose the better part”. For, she sat at the feet of Jesus, listened and learned what it means to be a true child of God. If we contemplate the words of Jesus, we can come to know who God is and what He has in store for us.

In this way, we are able to learn, as Paul says in the 2nd Reading, “what is the will of the Lord.” The reason Jesus was in constant prayer was to enter more deeply into the mind and heart of God. Thus, He could know God, discern His will for Him, and find the strength to do it faithfully. As we know, God’s will was not easy for Jesus. And it may not be so for us. But when we know and love the Father like Jesus, we can say “not as I will, but as You will.” The Father will then see us through, as He did Jesus, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

This, then, is Christian hope. When we feed on Jesus’ words of Wisdom and feed on His Body and Blood, we have, as He says in today’s Gospel, ‘have eternal life now, and He will raise us up on the Last Day’. What more could any wise person hope for?

Father Kirlin