Commentary on the Gospel of
I wonder what I would have thought of Jesus if I had lived 2000 years ago. If I had been looking for a Messiah, my guess is that I would have expected someone coming in splendor and glory, someone who would have crushed the oppressors. Jesus defies my expectations. He is not born into a family that has wealth or influence. He does not teach the normal structure of an earthly kingdom. His path involves suffering, stresses service, and has a special place for the poor.
I realize that with age my vision is not what it used to be; my hearing is starting to fail. My mind no longer picks up on the subtleties as it once could. I realize how often I may miss the main point. I have become aware of how often my expectations and the context has me filling what I might have missed. (Having lived enough of my life in places where my language skills and understanding of the cultural context have fallen short, I am well aware of how much I have let the context define what I take away from an interaction.) Would I have recognized someone as the Messiah if He did not fit my idea of a Messiah?
Jesus responds to the Pharisees telling them that the kingdom of God is among them. The Pharisees were drawn to order, discipline, and ritual. Jesus tries to get people to recognize that what is important is the underlying spirituality rather than the structures. I can just imagine myself as a very confused observer in the crowd.
The first reading gives some insight into what wisdom really is. I am familiar with wisdom as an understanding of the physical world about us. We are reminded of wisdom in terms of virtue and our relationship with God. Wisdom is the ability to see beyond our predispositions. Having taught physics for many years, I know the difficulty of shepherding people to come to an understanding that conflicts with “common sense”; things naturally keep moving in a straight line unless there is a force to stop them; air pressure is lower where the air is moving faster; when I push on something that something pushes back on me with a force of the same size. I am reminded of the line from Miracle on 34th Street – “Faith is believing something when common sense tells you not to.” I might reword this as “Wisdom is understanding when predispositions are overcome.” This is the basis of my prayer today.