Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18
1 Corinthians 3: 16-23
Matthew 5: 38-48
A pastor was opening his mail. One envelope contained a sheet of paper that had four big, bold letters on it, spelling: F-O-O-L. So he took it with him into the pulpit on Sunday and said to the people, “I have received many letters over the years from people who forgot to sign their names. But this is the first one that I ever got where someone signed their name but forgot to write the letter!” FOOL – we heard that word in today’s second reading, from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul wrote: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” What is “the wisdom of this world” that Paul called “foolishness”? In the chapter 2 of Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly talks about “the wisdom of this world” found in three ancient philosophies that are still with us today: individualism, hedonism and minimalism.
Individualism asks: “What’s in it for me?” It is based on the conviction that “the world is all about me.”
The second one is hedonism. Hedonism asks: “Will this give me pleasure?” If not, a hedonistic person would not get involved.
The third one is minimalism. Minimalism asks: “What is the very least that I need to do?”
These three philosophies – individualism, hedonism and minimalism – are at the heart of “the wisdom of this world” that Paul called “foolishness.”
Where do we find the “wisdom of God” that Paul is talking about? We find the wisdom of God in Jesus, the Son of God, whom God the Father sent to become human like us in everything except sin, so that we could become like Him.
And Jesus teaches us this “wisdom of God” today: “You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father.”
And how does Jesus act? His life is total self-giving. If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must imitate His self-giving. Or, to use another expression, we must imitate His “self-donation.”
Do you know where the word donation comes from? It is from the Latin word, donum, which means “a gift.” A donation is “something given as a gift.” Jesus offers us the gift of Himself. So the wisdom of God involves self-giving, self-donation.
We are pretty good as a people in giving to a need. There’s an earthquake, a hurricane, a fire and we rise to the occasion and we give to the need.
But as followers of Jesus we not only give to a need. We also need to give. Self-giving, self-donation are part of who we are as disciples of Jesus.
I am going to propose two ways of looking at parish life. One model is the gas station. The other is the family. You may be thinking, “Oh come on, nobody thinks of a parish as a gas station!” Well listen to the description and then see what you think.
The gas station is a place where we don’t want to linger any longer than we have to. Filling the gas tank, we don’t build a lasting relationship with the person at the next pump. But the gas station is not the destination. We want to get in and get out of there as soon as we can. Does anybody ever say to you, “Let’s go spend the afternoon at the gas station!”?
Does that sound like parish life at all? Don’t want to linger too long, Don’t want to get to know anybody or get too terribly involved. It is not the destination; where I am going after Mass is the destination. Just get my Sunday Mass obligation out of the way so that I can get on to more important things. Hanging around at the parish – are you kidding???
The gas station model.
How about the family model? Where it is a great place to spend some time and linger. Where we strive to build lasting relationships with each other. Where it is the destination. And you really could say to someone else, “Why don’t we go up to our parish and spend some time there?”
Which model of parish life sounds more accurate: the gas station or the family? Which model do you embrace? I hope it is the family model, for we are St. Joseph and Nativity Parish Families.
St. Paul tells us: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
The “wisdom of this world” sees self-giving, self-donation as foolish. “What’s in it for me?” [Individualism] “Will this give me pleasure?” [Hedonism] “What’s the least I have to do?” [Minimalism]
Disciples of Jesus know what they get out of it. Ask them. Observe them. Disciples of Jesus – we – are called to show where true wisdom can be found.