In the first reading (Wisdom 9:13-18b) we are told that wisdom is a gift given from on high. It is not something we acquire by our own effort and ingenuity but it is a gift from God. Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight. Wisdom is the fruit of relationship with God and, as we learned in last Sunday’s gospel, it both comes and is received on our part through the actions of humility and living a generosity toward those who cannot repay us.
But we can invite one another to wisdom. This is a truth found in today’s second reading (Philemon 9-10, 12-17). The Letter to Philemon is a short letter written by Paul to Philemon, a member of the Christian community, on behalf of Onesimus – a runaway slave of Philemon’s whom Paul had befriended and converted while they were held together in prison. According to the law of the day, Philemon had the right to punish Onesimus severely, even having him put to death, but Paul writes and asks Philemon not only to be lenient and receive Onesimus back but to even receive him back as now a brother in Christ.
Paul is inviting (not forcing) Philemon to a new awareness. He is inviting him to wisdom in Christ. Things had now changed. Elsewhere Paul will write …in Christ there is neither slave nor free… Paul is aware of this new reality, he does not wish to force it on Philemon for that would not be true to the gospel but he does want to invite Philemon to this new awareness. Paul is also crafty about this invitation though. He knows that when his letter arrives it will not be read privately by Philemon first; rather it will be read before the whole gathered community with Philemon present. All eyes will certainly be on Philemon but also, if the members of the community are honest, all eyes will need to be on each of their own hearts as the letter invites all who listen to it to wisdom and a greater awareness even to our own day. Can we receive the other person as brother and sister in Christ?
Christ continually invites us into the wisdom of the Kingdom of God. It is a wisdom that asks us to be willing to continually step away from the rigid and constricting thought of “this is the way things are, this is the way things will always be” toward the ever new possibility of the Kingdom. If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Christ continually invites us to calculate and set our lives by the ever new possibility of the Kingdom of God! Just like the person building a tower calculates out resources or the king calculates out the cost of a battle we must calculate and set our lives not by our own small and often meager possessions of thought but by the sheer gratuity of God’s Kingdom! Christ invites us set our lives by this wisdom!
Today, the Church gives us a wonderful witness of a person who set and calculated her life by the sheer gratuity of God’s Kingdom in St. Teresa of Calcutta. Where the world saw a simple little woman, God saw a great disciple to our age. Where the world saw lives with no value, St. Teresa saw children of God. Where the world saw hopelessness, St. Teresa found beauty. Where the world saw wealth, St. Teresa saw poverty. Where the world gave up, St. Teresa persevered.
St. Teresa allowed herself to be invited into the wisdom of the Kingdom of God – even in the darkness of it all. Now, like Paul himself, St. Teresa invites us into the ever new possibility of the wisdom of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!