Immersed in Christ: February 12, 2020
Wednesday, Week Five of Ordinary Time
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom.
(Responsorial: Psalm 37)
In 1Kings 10:1-10 the queen of Sheba admires Solomon for his wisdom. She “came to test him with subtle questions” on many topics, and “King Solomon explained everything she asked about.” But what made her “breathless” were
the palace he had built, the food. at his table, the seating of his ministers, the... garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the holocausts he offered.
It seems she was impressed, as much by the externals of affluence, protocol, good taste, and orderly administration as by Solomon’s knowledge and judgment. She praised his “wisdom and prosperity” in the same breath, concluding, “Happy are... these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom.”
When people visit the Vatican some are impressed and others are shocked by these same things: the apparent wealth, the beautiful works of art, the uniforms and protocol of the Swiss guards and attendants, the beautiful vestments and ceremonies at Mass. They imagine the Pope must dine on the best of food and wines. To some this speaks of wisdom; to others, of worldliness. Which is it?
Let’s look for the answer in what Jesus says in Mark 7:14-23. The Pharisees and experts in the Law were accusing his disciples of “eating with defiled hands” because the did not follow Jewish protocol in the way they washed their hands, food from the market, “cups, pots, and kettles.” When Mark wrote, the non-Jewish Christians were eating food that was not kosher.
Jesus said, “Nothing that comes in from outside can make a person impure. That which comes out of a person, and only that, constitutes impurity.” Mark adds: “Thus he declared all foods clean.”'
Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and make a person impure.
Jesus is telling us everything depends on what the externals in a person’s life express. This warns us not to judge from externals—either way. We should not be impressed by dress, protocol, riches, or the visible signs of success, whether in popes, presidents or corporate executives. Nor should we condemn anyone for these. We look to the heart.
It is true that Christians recognize riches, prestige and power as dangers. Those who let themselves be treated as if they were more important than others easily begin to believe they are. Jesus told his disciples to avoid that:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you... but do not do as they do.... They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats... and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi.... The greatest among you will be your servant....
When we see people accepting prestige and power, we should not judge them. We should pray for them.
Initiative: Examine your own heart. Do you enjoy prestige? Status? Power?