Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

Peter G. Gori, O.S.A.
Church of St. Augustine
Andover, Massachusetts

Wis 9:13-18b
Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Phmn 9-10, 12-17
Lk 14:25-33

Do you remember your Confirmation? Those of us who were in high school or middle school may remember having to memorize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord (or Reverence).

It occurs to me that the first three in this list are very close to one another. They are not the same, but they are closely related – Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.

Our first reading from Scripture today comes from the Book of Wisdom and it is traditionally understood to have been composed by King Solomon, whose very name is historically forever associated with wisdom. According to the story, when he was made king, God asked Solomon what he would like to have. He asked for wisdom, so that he would know what would be pleasing to God and choose that. Solomon knew that if he relied on merely his own resources he would not measure up.

Knowledge all by itself is helpful, often interesting, but only can take us just so far. Wisdom leads us to good judgement, better decisions, good governance. Understanding takes us even further. Understanding involves the perception of meaning and purpose. It can lead us to empathy, compassion, justice and mercy. Put them all together with God’s supernatural help, called grace, and everything improves.

Saint Augustine would tell us that it all begins with the desire, yearning, longing for God. This desire is deep within every human being. Indeed, it is what makes us human. Ultimately, our desire for these gifts or qualities are expressions of our deepest desire, the desire for God. St. Augustine said most beautifully and prayerfully, in his most familiar quote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You” (Confessions, 1.1).

This restlessness, this desire, can and does lead us to Christ and to discipleship. In today’s gospel, Jesus explains in no uncertain terms what He expects of those who would be His disciples. He expects us to follow where He leads and He leads us to the cross. He doesn’t expect us to just gaze at the cross. He says bluntly, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” In order to carry the cross, we have to first let go of everything else in our hands, in our arms – “father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life.” Some would say that this “letting go” is the most challenging and difficult part.

And yet, Jesus is the same one who says, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”

Saint Paul recognized the paradox of this when he said, “we preach Christ crucified – a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). Let us prayerfully desire the wisdom to know Christ and to understand what He asks of us today.