• Father David M. Knight

Same Day: February 22, 2017

Wednesday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to Readings: Sirach 4:11-19; Psalm 119; Mark 9:38-40

What advantage is there in embracing discipleship? What does “wisdom” give us? Sirach 4:11-19 lists some advantages:

Wisdom “instructs her children and admonishes those who seek her.” Disciples want, and get, input: both general instruction and insight into their own failings. Those who want wisdom “love life,” because they want to grow into more life, into “life to the full.”[1]

Those who seek wisdom “win her [God’s] favor” just by desiring to grow. But to be authentic, desire has to pass into action. And only those who “hold her fast” through perseverance will “inherit glory.” Perseverance is the measure of desire. Still, wherever we are along the way, “the Lord bestows blessings.” He rewards and helps us from the moment we take the road of discipleship.

Discipleship enhances our life, but it is not just self-serving. “Those who serve her [wisdom] serve the Holy One.” We were created “to know, love and serve God.” The first two are included in the third. When we try to grow in knowledge and love we are serving God in addition to ourselves.

Discipleship is not a one-sided effort, It is not just self-improvement. God is involved. “Those who love her [wisdom], the Lord loves.” Reading Scripture is live interaction with God. “In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them.” God has a special love for those who love truth, and goodness enough to seek to grow in them. He “fills them with life and goodness.” He “blesses them and makes them holy.”[2]

Those who “hearken” to what God tells them will “dwell in the inmost chambers” of God’s heart. Jesus said “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. The fruit of discipleship is union. Ultimately, it is the perfect union of the “spiritual marriage” which St. Teresa of Avila sees as the goal of a prayerful Christian life. But St. Paul preceded her in this![3]

We need to decide, with faith, what we will put our trust in to lead us to the fullness of life — here as well as hereafter. Sirach says that those who “trust her [wisdom]” to do this “will possess her.” St. Thomas Aquinas defines wisdom as “appreciation for spiritual things,” and the “habit of relating everything to our last end.” It takes wisdom to seek wisdom. We experience it when we consciously, deliberately, deeply decide and choose to become disciples — to be “students” of Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, teacher of Truth and Goodness, the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we choose this, not only will we possess wisdom; our “descendents too will inherit her.” There is no greater heritage to pass on to our children.[4]

When we are “strangers” the path of wisdom may lead us through “fear,” but it leads to “happiness.” Wisdom “tries” us until our hearts are “fully with her,” because God only gives All for all.

Meditation: Do I truly want “wisdom”? Enough to become a disciple?

[1] John 10:10.

[2] Vatican II, “Liturgy,” no. 33. See the ending of Eucharistic Prayer I, speaking of God’s gifts.

[3] See Teresa, Interior Castle, Dwellings V to VII; Ephesians 5:25-32.

[4] John 14:6.

  • David Knight

February 21, 2017

Tuesday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to Readings: Sirach 2:1-11; Psalm 37; Mark 9:30-37

A once-popular love song begins, “I never promised you a rose garden.” Sirach 2:1-11, however, does. But he is honest about the thorns. To those who “come to serve the Lord” he says, “Prepare yourself for trials.” Good and evil are at war in our world, and in each one’s heart. If you get into the fight, you are going to get hit. Be ready for it.

For in fire gold is tested, and those who are worthy in the crucible of humiliation.

If we “cling to the Lord,” however, and “forsake him not,” he promises, “Your future will be great.” If we persevere. God wins — in the world and in each of us. Ben Sira says, “Look around!”

Study the generations long past and understand. Has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?

A key to the consolation of the spiritual life is commitment. Just knowing we are “sincere of heart and steadfast” in our determination to grow as a disciple of the Lord is a mystical experience. Where could this determination come from if not grace? And if from grace, then we are responding to a personal call from God. This means we are experiencing God; we are in live, interactive contact with him. He is speaking and we are responding. That is a mystical experience.

Commitment, however, is only realized “in the crucible of humiliation.” We don’t realize we are determined to be faithful until we don’t feel like it any more. When we don’t feel “holy” anymore, because on the emotional level we no longer want to do what we promised, that is humiliating. But it takes this to experience commitment as pure gold.

When this happens we gain a double clarity: we are able to see the difference, first, between our emotions and our choices. Second, between what comes from us and what comes from God.

When our emotions don’t support our will, we simply realize we are fragmented beings. We say with St. Paul “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched human that I am!” But if we are at war, something in us is fighting for the good. My “bad self” reveals my “good self”!

Paul cries, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And he answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” By persevering we realize our strength and virtue are not from us alone, but above all from “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” living within us. This is humility. Humility is “to be peaceful with the truth.” [1]

So the first step into discipleship is “Commit your life to the Lord.” Declare yourself a learner — a student, an apprentice — for the sake of becoming a follower of Jesus. That is a very deep, fundamental choice that goes to the roots of our identity. Our Christianity becomes a conscious choice to “come to serve the Lord.” It is not all that common.

A live root branches out. So the decision to enroll as a student in the school of Christ must take visible form in concrete commitments. How will I start? Will I read Scripture? Join a discussion group? Use the sacrament of Reconciliation as a “progress report” for sustaining growth? Read other books? Get to daily Mass? Make the Cursillo? Go on retreat? Take a course? “What,” “When,” and “How” make choices real.

Meditation: Do I really choose to “Commit my life to the Lord?” Why?

[1] Romans 7:23 to 8:2.

  • Father David M. Knight

February 20, 2017

Monday, Week Seven, Year I

Link to readings: Sirach 1:1-10; Psalm 93; Mark 9:14-29

In Genesis God’s story about creation gave us “a version with vision.” Now the Liturgy of the Word invites us to go beyond basic understanding and explore the deep wisdom literature that teaches us to live in this world with “appreciation for spiritual things.”

Sirach is also known as Ecclesiasticus (“church book”) because of the use the early Christians made of it for moral teaching. It was written by Jesus Ben Sira around 180 B.C. In 132 B.C. his grandson translated his Hebrew into Greek. The Christians accepted it in the “canon” or list of inspired books, but after the first century the Jews (and following them the Protestants) did not. Protestant Bibles include it in the “Apocrypha” or “Deuterocanonical Books.” Ben Sira presents it as “wise instruction, appropriate proverbs,” to feed discipleship: “Wise the one who meditates upon these things, who takes them to heart. One who puts them into practice can cope with anything, having the fear of the Lord for a lamp” (51:27).

Sirach 1:1-10 begins by saying, “All wisdom comes from the Lord.” Who would dispute that? But who really believes it? If we really believed it, we would be seeking wisdom where it can be found; in God’s word and in the reflections on God’s word that the saints, “doctors of the Church,” and spiritual writers have handed down to us over the centuries. And in deep reflection and discussions, guided by faith, about our daily experience. But how much time do how many people spend doing this? Who “meditates upon these things?” Who “takes them to heart?”

To live life authentically, “honesty is the best policy.” So let’s begin there: Do you yourself really value “wisdom” at all? True wisdom, that is, that “comes from the Lord”? You value the education that comes from and leads to life in this world. You spent most hours of your day in school for years to acquire it. You certainly do value cultural knowledge. What in your life shows as clearly you value wisdom?

How much of the knowledge you spend your time acquiring has any long-term value? (Unless you are sub-consciously accepting death as the “terminus” of your life). For the life that begins with death, the life we were created for, all of our cultural, technological knowledge will be as useful as a highschool letter jacket to a college student. Or a play toy to an adult. Something that belonged to another life; that has no relevance now.

Forget death. Without the wisdom that comes from God, we can’t even appreciate life in the world around us except in a very superficial way. We have fantastic technology. It makes us more comfortable, healthy and effective both in preserving and destroying lif

e. But all it tells us is how things work; nothing about what they are or what we can become as human persons through the use of them. Wisdom teaches that.

Ben Sira says wisdom is ours for the seeking. The Lord “has poured her forth.... He has lavished her upon his friends.” We know that “in Christ Jesus” the eternal Word of God “became for us wisdom from God.” Wisdom incarnate.[1] Jesus’ words and actions display wisdom before our eyes. How much time do we spend on them? We all recite dutifully at Mass, “The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.”

Is he?

Meditation: Ask deeply and honestly, “Who is God for me?”

[1] 1Corinthians 1:30.

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