ROMANS 8:9, 11-13;
Theme : TRUE WISDOM AND LEARNING
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of a wisdom that is hidden from or inaccessible to the wise and the learned of this world. To begin with let us consider the wisdom that is available and administered by the wise and the learned of this world, the wisdom that they hold in high regard and take great pains to acquire. A close inspection of that worldly wisdom will instantly reveal that it is oriented towards ensuring and enhancing the three basic or primary needs namely: self-preservation, possession and recognition. All human sciences and philosophies are attempts to teach us how to acquire one or the other of the above said basic needs. Therefore, human wisdom can be classified under these three basic titles: how to get recognized, how to acquire more and how to ensure survival. St Paul in his letter to Romans mentions these basic instincts for survival, possession and recognition as the temptations of the flesh, the world and the devil. Though countless generations have come and gone in effect there is no significant difference in the goal of human wisdom even today. The methods may be different, the language may be different and the expressions may be different, but, the objective of the worldly wisdom remains always the same – self-preservation, possession and recognition.
Unfortunately, even those who claim that they have left behind the worldly wisdom and avow that they are pursuing the divine wisdom, knowingly or unknowingly remain slaves of these very same basic instincts. No religion is exempt from this perplexing anomaly. Those who eschew publically the enticements of the flesh, the world and the devil, in private, pull strings and wallow in them. To our surprise, we even find those who were initially genuine in their pursuit of supernatural wisdom gradually being swept away in the flood of these three basic instincts. Frequently we become aware of the slow and steady degradation and deterioration of our pilgrim places, spiritual centers, ashrams, and retreat houses as people, money and popularity come that way. As soon as people, money and recognition start flowing in “worldly wise, smart guys” take over and “imprisons the original charism” to “protect it” from falling into the hands of “evil people”! The original purpose soon gives way to business motifs. I hope at least some of you might be read the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell. Led by pigs, animals successfully overthrew the oppressive human masters of a farm and declared independence and declared “All animals equal.” Gradually the leading pigs brought in amendments to the original rules for improvement of the animal farm which in fact were more oppressive than those of human masters. Pigs soon began collaborating with the humans in the pretext of taking advantage of them. Once when the animals peeped through the windows where the pigs were having dialogue with the humans they could not distinguish pigs from humans! We saw this happening in Germany, Russia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and numerous other countries. This can and still happens in families, congregations and Churches. Some saviors are more harmful than enemies.
All over the world, religion and spirituality remain the best crowd pullers and provide the best business prospect. More than anywhere else India is pestered by these conmen and fraud women who survive, hoard possession and gain recognition in the name of God. However, there is something meritorious about them; at least they are not fooling themselves. They fool their naive and stupid devotees to acquire wealth and respect for their self-preservation. I am not pointing towards those cash making institutions either, since they are deliberately created for attracting people, money and recognition. Unfortunately, there are people who fool not only others but also themselves. Even though their original intention might have been genuine, they fail to see or refuse to realize and admit the slow degradation and erosion of their original purity of intend. Their failure to dock their vessel and get rid of the barnacles eventually pulls it down to abyss. Therefore, every person and every institution should be extra vigilant about their “worldly wise saviors”. St Arsenius the Great, one of the desert fathers is said to have kept a placard in his cave written in bold letters, “Arsenius, Why are you here?” to remind him of his original purity of intend.
Our first reading from Prophet Zechariah reminds the people of Israel the need of recapturing the original purity. Yahweh laments the loss of purity of his daughter Zion and offers to restore her to original purity were peace and joy prevailed devoid of division and conflicts. St Paul reminds the Christians of Rome that they are no more followers of the wisdom of the world which looks for ways and means to ensure self-preservation, possession and recognition. The only way to belong to Christ is to imbue the spirit of Christ. We see Jesus confronting and overcoming the three basic temptations right from the beginning of his public life. The path that he chose was that of poverty, chastity and obedience. He always remained focused on the will of his heavenly Father. He was not sometimes ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no’ to the will of his Father. He was always ‘yes’. St Paul writes to Corinthians “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes’” (2 Cor 1:19). It is that very same mind-set that made him adopt the name “Amen” for himself in the book of Revelations (Rev 3:14). The true spirit of Jesus is total openness and availability to the will of his Father. This is the wisdom that in unknown and unacceptable to the wise and the learned of this world. Jesus found his eternity in and with his Father. There is no survival, possession, or recognition that endures besides that which we find in God. The wisdom of the world is destined to end up in despair and failure. Every time the Satan tempted Jesus offering him ways of survival, possession and recognition, he pointed towards God, the source of his being, having and recognition. The truly wise and the learned are those who search and find their being, having and prestige in God and God alone. They will shed all their worldly baggage and remain “meek and humble of heart” and find rest. Let us listen to Jesus own words, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:24)
Rev. Fr. Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI