Do you remember those times when you were little and you longed to do something well and it all went wrong? Perhaps you were not big enough, or you got over-excited, and “bang” down you fell, and then all was tears and bruised or bleeding knees?
As we get older we are usually a bit more cautious, but still we have dreams of things we would like to do, and yet many have to remain just that – dreams that can never be realised. I’ve always wanted to be a brilliant athletic swimmer, but instead I have to watch them from the slow lane as I plod up and down trying to keep reasonably fit. My body, as the 1st Reading reminds me today, is a “tent of clay that weighs down the teeming mind” (Wisdom 9:13-18)
Our “teeming mind” therefore can take us much further than our body. It is with our mind that we not only dream of great things we may do on earth, but also sense the spiritual world – the source of love and truth and freedom. Here we sense the presence of the creative power behind the universe and know that we have a place in God’s eternal purposes. But here again we have to remain frustrated. As our Reading says, “It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth… who then can discover what is in the heavens?” To know God is easy, but to know fully what God is and what God wants for me is very hard – it is the greatest and yet most important challenge in our lives.
Jesus points out today in the Gospel, (Luke 14:25-33) that this challenge must be faced, that we must realise how important it is and take it really seriously. He compares it to constructing a great building or fighting a major battle. Unless we realise the challenge we face, we will never realise what we could have done if we had opened ourselves up to God. We will be stuck instead plodding along, thinking that life is just about the things, the possessions that we can gather around ourselves. Lovely things maybe, useful things too… our clothes .. our latest mobile phone … our computer, etc etc… but all pointless unless we submit them to a greater purpose and use them for God’s glory and the good of the world, rather than to bolster up our own ego.
So when Jesus tells us to give up all our possessions, he isn’t literally telling us not to possess anything. No, what he is stressing is how easily things like this dominate our lives. Giving them up means putting God’s will for us first, so that we use our possessions and all our activities for a good purpose, a greater purpose, rather than being used by them. And how easy it is to let our physical desires dominate everything! Our desire for the newest “thing” to wear or to use… And how well the advertisers know about this desire, and cleverly manipulate us into thinking that, if only I have that “thing” then I will be happy!
Both our 1st Reading, and the words of Jesus, hint at how we can rise above these basic desires. The Christian faith (unlike some other religions) makes it clear that we cannot do this by ourselves. We are taught by Jesus and thus his Church that it is nonsense to think that if we just try a bit harder we can be a nicer more loving person and thus closer to God. No, as our 1st reading says : – “As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above?”
Wisdom here does not mean wisdom as the world thinks of it, what we call worldly wisdom. It is one of our greatest follies to think that if we get clever enough, we will solve all our problems. Scientists can do very many clever things, but how we use the knowledge they give us, is much more important. I only have to mention nuclear power for you to understand what I mean.
No. True wisdom, comes from God. This means that it is our attitude to life that really matters. An attitude that admits our limitations and calls on God to help and inspire us in all that we do.. the attitude that we call faith… the attitude that is created by quiet persistent prayer. This is why the Mass is so important. It is not a thing you do, or I do. It is something given to us by God where what matters is not what we do, but what we receive.
We may well find parts of our life where we achieve our dreams, but if we do, it will be because God was working in us. We cannot do it alone.