Ordinary 28th Sunday
ORDINARY 28TH SUNDAY
Wis. 7: 7-11 Heb. 4: 12-13 Mk. 10: 17-30
PATH OF WISDOM
A person of wisdom has an integrated and wholistic approach towards life.
Wisdom and the ‘other side’:
Once a young man asked a sage, “Now a days I hear so much about wisdom. Can you please tell me what exactly wisdom is?” The sage thought for a moment and answered, “Wisdom is nothing but your ability to see the ‘other side.’” They youth did not seem to understand what he said: “Can you please clarify?” The sage answered, “Let me take an example. Many people pursue wealth relentlessly thinking that it would make them happy – that it would help them to buy the things which they like, to have a comfortable life etc.. It is indeed true that wealth helps them to make their lives a little more comfortable. However this is just one side of reality. The other side is that wealth brings its own bane in the long run. It brings a sense of insecurity and fear into the life of a person. It also makes a person feel proud and arrogant. People who have wealth as the centre of their lives tend to relegate a lower position to relationship, love, consciousness etc., which are very subtle, yet more important aspects of life. Since many people don’t see the ‘other side’ of wealth, they, in the name of pursuing wealth, ruin their lives in the long run. Let me give you another example. Apparently speaking, suffering is hard and hurting. But the other side of suffering is that it helps us to reduce our pride and egoiostic way of living, and thus helps us to be relational. Thus it helps us to move towards our happiness. A jnani (wise man) is the one who is able to see the ‘other side’ of wealth and thus keeps a distance from it, and the ‘other side’ of suffering and develops a positive attitude towards it.” Finally the sage concluded, “Blessed are those who have the ability to look at both sides of everything they come across in their lives.”
Normally, we, human beings, tend to have one-sided perception of everything. That is what our knowledge is capable of! This partial perception of reality leads to unwholesome attitude which, in turn, is responsible for a type of action that is partial, limited and incomplete. Ultimately it leads to a type of happiness that is partial and incomplete. This is precisely what we see in today’s gospel reading.
The young man is an example for the vast majority of people who have a partial, one-sided perception of reality and are carried away by it. First of all, he must have thought that wealth would bring him whatever he wanted in his life. However in spite of the fact of having so much of wealth, he did not have real contentment and joy in his life. This was the precise reason why he turned to Jesus. Secondly, he did not understand the other side, that is, the positive side of sharing and giving. That is why when Jesus asked him to ‘sell and give to the poor,’ he was not ready for it.
Wisdom and Happiness
In Bhagavad Gita, we see Krishna telling Arjuna, “There are two paths in front of you: One is the path of pleasure, and the other the path of happiness. Choose what you want.” The path of pleasure initially presents the attractive side of materialism, sensual pleasure etc.. But gradually when one begins to experience the ‘other side’ of these things, one gets disillusioned in life. The path of true happiness initially presents the not-so-attractive, or even the painful, side of self-discipline, sacrifice, forgiveness, suffering, sharing etc.. However when one perseveres in this path, gradually one begins to realize the beautiful and enchanting other side of it. The path of pleasure is first sweet, but later it turns to be bitter and sour, whereas the path of happiness is first bitter, gradually turns to be sweet.
People who tend to see only the one side of life, unknowingly choose the path of pleasure, while those who have an integrated vision towards life, choose the path of happiness. A person in the path of pleasure is like a dog, chewing a dry bone. When it chews, the dry bone hits the mouth of the dog and makes it bleed. But the dog, thinking that the blood comes from the dry bone, chews it all the more vigorously, not realizing that it is its own blood.
To differentiate these two paths is not easy. To know the difference, to be convinced of it and to act accordingly, we need wisdom. Human intelligence will not suffice in this regard. Sometimes, we may easily be cheated by human intelligence. It is God’s wisdom alone that would help us to solve the paradoxes of life. That is why the first reading talks about wisdom in such glowing terms. It says that wisdom is more than scepters and thrones, more than gold, silver and even priceless gem.
Wisdom & Receiving It
Wisdom can not merely come from human intelligence, nor from mere human effort alone. It can come from God and God alone. Only God can be the source of wisdom. The readings today, besides pointing out the importance of wisdom in our lives, also point out two ways how we can receive wisdom from God.
a). The first way is prayer. Solomon says, “I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” This is what that we see in the life of Solomon. It was given as a gratuitous gift to him by God as an answer to his prayer (1 Sam. 3:9-13). St. James too reiterates that, by asking God fervently, we can receive wisdom from Him. “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (Jam. 1: 5)
b). The second way is by meditating on the word of God. In the second reading, the author of the book of Hebrews explains how the word of God pierces through everything and thus makes things clear and obvious. In other words, the word of God helps us to see the invisible, hidden and the ‘other side’ of life. To put it more precisely, when a person takes the word of God seriously, one begins to transcend the material realm and see life in its entirety.