"We pray for the wisdom to seek the Kingdom of God above anything that world has to give," writes Fr. Koch. This stained glass window in Corpus Christi Church, Willingboro, depicts wisdom. Monitor file photo
"We pray for the wisdom to seek the Kingdom of God above anything that world has to give," writes Fr. Koch. This stained glass window in Corpus Christi Church, Willingboro, depicts wisdom. Monitor file photo
Gospel Reflection for July 26, 2020, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

While the old adage claims that wisdom comes with age, the greater truth is that wisdom comes to us as a Gift of the Holy Spirit. The importance of wisdom as an attribute for discerning God’s will for us goes back well into the ancient world. The Greeks – often known for their pursuit of wisdom (philosophy) – imagined wisdom was embodied in one of their chief deities, Athena, after whom the city of Athens is named, and in whose honor stood the great temple called the Parthenon. The Romans similarly honored Minerva as the goddess of wisdom and built many shrines and temples to her.

The embodiment of wisdom in the ancient Jewish tradition gives some early understanding of the Holy Spirit: the wispiness of the breeze and the power of God rolled into one. Wisdom as we understand it in the Judeo-Christian tradition is to seek first and foremost to know the mind of God. While that is something none of us can actually ever accomplish wisdom in and of itself carefully directs our minds toward God as we come to understand how to live as disciples in the world.

We see in the account of Solomon, the youngest son of King David who succeeds his father in spite having older brothers, this quest for wisdom when prompted by God to ask for whatever he desires. No more than a teenager at the time of his ascendency to the throne of David, Solomon is given the task of keeping a people united when there were forces at work to divide and destroy the kingdom of Israel and Judah. Sadly, while he is known for his wisdom and understanding as he ruled the people, he loses a sense of humility when he comes to misuse this great gift for his own gratification and aggrandizement. While Solomon never abandons the Lord, his heart is not totally with the Lord as was his father, David.

Like all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, too, must be nurtured with faith and humility. Of all of the Gifts the Spirit bestows, this is probably the one that is easiest to take for granted as it comes with the temptation to use it unwisely.

The pitfall of wisdom is that we often confuse wisdom with intelligence or with education. While they may often complement each other, there is certainly no necessary univocal connection between them. All too often hubris and arrogance come with intelligence and with learning. When one is truly wise – genuinely seeking the Lord – then patience and humility are the more common character traits.

Jesus tells the parable about a man who discovers a great pearl in a field and then reburies it so that he can buy the field at less than the value of the pearl. This is the last in a successive grouping of parables about the Kingdom that we have been hearing from Matthew’s Gospel over the past few weeks.

While his actions might appear to us to be a fraud against the landowner, Jesus holds him up as a man whose actions mirror how we ought to seek the Kingdom of God. Indeed, patience and prudence are necessary as we seek the kingdom of God.

We need wisdom to seek the Lord and to follow the path of discipleship. We have many opportunities to find pearls of great price in our life of faith. The ancient Christian writer, Origen, commenting on this parable, pointed to both the Scriptures and to Jesus as the pearl. As one comes to treasure the Word of God in the Scriptures, one is then drawn to commit all for the sake of the Gospel. As one comes to experience a personal relationship with the Lord, similarly that one will sacrifice much for the sake of Christ. Likewise, with the Sacraments, once we have come to a relationship with the Lord in the Sacraments, we seek the merciful presence of the Lord through them at all cost.

We pray for the wisdom to seek the Kingdom of God above anything that world has to give as we find the great price in Jesus Christ and the kingdom he has prepared for us.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.