Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.” Prv 9: 1-6
Lady Folly tells us:
The woman of folly is boisterous,
She is naive and knows nothing.
She sits at the doorway of her house,
On a seat by the high places of the city,
Calling to those who pass by,
Who are making their paths straight:
“Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
And to him who lacks understanding she says,
“Stolen water is sweet;
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of Sheol. Prv 9: 13-18
We are called to wisdom, signified by the “perfect” table set by Lady Wisdom, and not the table of Lady Folly, who tells us, “no matter, eat, drink, and be merry–take what you need, cheat, lie, it is all toward the goal of satisfying only you.”
Yet, as always the question remains, how do we discern the wise and forsake that which is evil and wrong? On some things of course, it is quite easy–we know not to cheat or murder. We know not to steal, but what exactly constitutes cheating?
Paul offers us his advice:
Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Eph 5: 15-20
Note that he tells us to “try” to understand the will of God. Paul reminds us that it is not always easy. He suggests that immersing ourselves in scripture and prayer, and praying continually are useful in opening ourselves to the Spirit which we know will guide us aright.
Lastly in the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us the most important help: the Eucharist. Now admittedly, not all of the Christian community agree that the bread and wine that we receive each mass is indeed the real body and blood of our Lord, changed in some mysterious way from their original elements.
We as Catholics do believe this, and we take this offering as God joining us in a special way that we can count on to bring us to God’s will for us.
What does that mean?
Often, as a dissenting Catholic, I find that those who profess a strict adherence to church teaching, tell me that my way is “easy”. It’s easy to just love everyone they claim. It’s hard, so they say, to cut across what is popular and secularly permissible. That is how they discern “it is the right thing.”
But is it hard?
I really don’t think so.
If we take the Bible as a whole, we see a steady progression, it seems to me, in understanding that God’s love extends to all his children. Those that thought they had his exclusive attention are often angry and shocked, and yes, unwilling to accept that “others” also find His favor.
While it may seem “hard” to speak against the poor’s “drain” on the budget, or why gays should be denied marriage and the full sacramental life in the church, or why women should be regulated in their health care by more “knowing” men, is it really hard to take these positions? Or is it really quite easy?
Easy in the sense that it always makes us feel better when we can point our finger at someone, anyone, and say they are not as good. They don’t live “right” in one fashion or another. They are different, not holy and “saved” because they are not willing to forgo this or that perceived sin. But what is hard about not getting an abortion if you are post menopausal? What is hard about not engaging in homosexual behavior if you are not homosexual? What is hard about not marrying a divorced person if you are happily married to your first spouse? What is hard about working hard and paying your taxes if you are blessed with a good-paying job.
What is hard about being “holier than thou” toward someone else? It’s really easy isn’t it? It is human nature to not want to feel oneself to be the most disadvantaged, the worst off. We quickly look for someone to point to who is worse off, or simply worse as we define things.
In discerning that is God’s will for us, it seems to me that we are better off doing that which doesn’t divide people into groups of “like me” and “not like me.” For in the end, we are all God’s chosen. We are not God. Our job is be gracious, kind, loving, charitable, open-hearted, strong in spirit, helpful, compassionate. If God wishes to judge anyone as unworthy, I’m sure he doesn’t need our help.
Lift up your Hearts to the Lord!
- Wine, a Woman, and Song: A Meditation on the Readings for the 20th Sunday of the Year. (adw.org)
- August 19th 2012 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (catholicjules.net)
- On Refusing Holy Communion to Non-Catholics (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time) (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)