Spirituality Matters 2018: September 6th - September 12th
(September 6, 2018: Thursday, Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time)
* * * * *
“If anyone among you considers himself wise, let him become a fool, so as to become wise…”
This apparent paradox – wisdom as foolishness, foolishness as wisdom – is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Of course, it is “worldly” wisdom that is foolish, whereas divine “foolishness” is, in truth, authentic wisdom. Put another way, when our “wisdom” makes us the center of the universe, we are truly the most foolish of men. By contrast, when we are so “foolish” as to make God the center of the universe, it is only then that we can hope to become truly wise.
Francis de Sales was no stranger to this paradox. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, he wrote:
“We recognize genuine goodness as we do genuine balm. If balm sinks down and stays at the bottom when dropped into water, it is rated the best and most valuable. So also, in order to know whether a person is truly wise, learned, generous and noble, we must observe whether his abilities tend to humility, modesty, and obedience for in that case they will be truly good. If they float on the surface and seek to show themselves they are so much less genuine insofar as they are showier. People’s virtues and fine qualities when conceived and nurtured by pride, show and vanity have the mere appearance of good without juice, marrow and solidity. Honors, dignities and rank are like saffron, which thrives best and grows most plentifully when trodden under foot. It is no honor to be handsome if a person prizes himself for it; if beauty is to have good grace, it should be unstudied. Learning dishonors us when it inflates our minds and degenerates into mere pedantry. Just as honor is an excellent thing when given to us freely, so, too, it becomes base when demanded, sought after and asked for.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 4, pp. 132-133)
So, ask yourself the question: “Does my wisdom inflate my mind, or does it tend to humility, modesty and obedience?” If your answer is the former, you may be far more foolish than you know. By contrast, if your answer is the latter, you may be far wiser than you ever thought possible.
(September 7, 2018: Friday, Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time)
* * * * *
“Do not make any judgment before the appointed time…”
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales makes a direct reference to this admonition from St. Paul, when he wrote:
“‘No,’ says the Apostle, ‘judge not before the time until the Lord comes, when He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsel of hearts.’ The judgments of the children of men are rash because they are not the judges of one another, and when they pass judgments on others they usurp the office of the Lord. They are rash because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention and counsel of the heart, and to us they are the hidden things of darkness. They are rash because every man has enough on which he ought to judge himself without taking it upon him to judge his neighbor. To avoid future judgment it is equally necessary both to refrain from judging others and to judge ourselves.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 28, pp. 196-197)
Note that Paul is willing to go even a step further than St. Francis de Sales when it comes to making judgments. The former goes so far as to say, “I do not even pass judgment on myself”. In the big scheme of things, each of us has more than enough on his plate each day just trying to live our lives as best we can without spending extra time and energy (that we really don’t have) judging ourselves and others. Besides, who are we to judge? After all, as both St. Paul and St. Francis de Sales point out, it is God who is the one and only just judge.
Just today, try and remember this admonition: whether toward others or ourselves, judging is simply above our pay grade.
(September 8, 2018: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
* * * * *
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God…” (Romans)
When Joachim and Ann welcomed their daughter Mary into the world, who could have known – or imagined – that she was destined to become the mother of the Messiah? Who could have thought that this simple, poor and unassuming maiden would be the vehicle through whom God would fulfill his promise of salvation? Who could have anticipated that her simple “yes” as the handmaid of the Lord would change the course of the world forever?
How about you? Who could have thought that God would bring you out of nothingness in order that you might experience the beauty of being someone? Who would have imagined that God would use your ordinary, everyday life to continue his ongoing creative, redemptive and inspiring action? Who could have known that your attempts to say “yes” to God’s will on a daily basis – however imperfectly – could change other peoples’ lives for the better?
God did it! God continues to do it! And God will continue to do it!
* * * * *