Ordinary Time 20, Year B

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
The Word became flesh (Jn. 1:14)

On the one hand, announces wisdom, having dressed her meat, mixed her wine, and spread her table: “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. For by me your days will be multiplied and the years of your life increased.”

Folly, on the other hand, inane and knowing nothing about either the communion that banquets suppose or the preparations required by fellowship, calls out: “Turn in here … Stolen water is sweet, and bread gotten secretly is pleasing!”

The two are competing with each other for people’s attention. And one could wonder who of the two is winning.

Precisely yesterday, Aug. 16, Pope Benedict XVI warned: “Today there are those who live as if they should never die, or as if all ends with death. Some behave as if man is the sole author of his destiny, as if God did not exist, at times even denying that there is a place for him in our world.” [1]. As some newspapers point out, the warning recognizes that in Western societies the wind of secularism and laicism is blowing ever strongly. If, then, secularism and laicism are gaining, or if the so-called “silent apostasy” of Europe—about which Pope John Paul II warned us on July 13, 2003 [2]—is increasingly becoming noticeable and deafening, all this means, I think, that folly is winning.

And an article in the June 2006 issue of the Vincentian publication, Caminos de Misión, carries the title “Los nuevos paganos llevan ahora nuestros apellidos” (“The new pagans have our last names,” [3]). Such title, in my view, is an admission that in Spain wisdom is losing ground. It would be hard to imagine a country more Catholic than Spain, but according to a poll by the Center of Sociological Investigation, while 78 percent of Spaniards consider themselves Catholics, only 17 percent attend Mass frequently, and that only 5 percent of the young people are estimated to follow the church’s teaching in their sexual lives. Does the economic law of diminishing returns have application to religious and ethical questions too? And if the religious and ethical returns, so to speak, are increasingly diminishing, this makes me believe that wisdom is losing much of its attraction nowadays.

If wisdom is indeed losing, who should be blamed for this lamentable situation and for the inclination of many of those who call themselves Christians to seem to want to get drunk on wine rather than be filled with the Spirit? The shepherds, I suppose, might blame the sheep, and the sheep, their shepherds. The sheep are sinners, shepherds might say, that is why they abort, divorce, and accept a deviant sexual morality [4]. For their part, the sheep might accuse their shepherds of failing as leaders for not focusing on social injustice. The blame game only goes to show, I think, that it is hard for us to admit our own culpability.

I am guilty, because by giving in to the pressure exerted by those who murmur and complain that it is impossible to comply with what is commanded, I end up watering down Jesus’ teaching and contribute to its being eroded in the society. Jesus, for his part, stood his ground and simply reiterated what he had affirmed earlier when some of his hearers asked themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” I am guilty then, for I have not taken seriously what St. Vincent de Paul said about gospel teaching, which goes (CR, II, 1):

Let each of us accept the truth of the following
statement and try to make it our most fundamental
principle: Christ’s teaching will never let us down,
while worldly wisdom always will. Christ himself
said this sort of wisdom was like a house with nothing
but sand as its foundation, while his own was like
a building with solid rock as its foundation.

I am culpable, yes, because I have eaten and drunk without discerning the Bread/Drink-Word and the Wisdom of God that Jesus is.

I am to blame because I collaborate, in little ways, yes, but I collaborate nonetheless, with those who promote consumerism that leads to food being stolen from the mouths of hungry children in poor countries. And really, as Robert M. Waldrop reminds me, I am guilty because while I speak words of peace, my lifestyle cries out for violence (cf. [5]).

I confess, yes, that I am guilty, because I have allowed myself to be carried away by folly rather than by wisdom. Needless to say, I do know in my heart of hearts which of the two is winning within me.