for Sunday, February 9, 2020
I want to begin today with some thoughts regarding the ancient civilization of Greece. When we think about the ancient Greeks, certain images come to our mind. We think about the beautiful Temples. We think about the wonderful and still meaningful Greek dramas. And, we think about Greek philosophy.
The Greeks were very serious about philosophy, far more than we are today, unfortunately. When St. Paul visited Greece, he found that many of the Greeks were firmly entrenched in the camps of several philosophers. For example, there were those who followed Heraclitus and believed that the world was always in a constant state of change. There were those who followed Parmenides who claimed that the world was unchangeable. There were the followers of Plato who spoke about the inner recollection we all have of an ideal world. The world according to Plato was a combination of what our minds could make of it and reality. There were the followers of Aristotle who said that the world is as it appears. Reality exists, and we are capable of understanding it.
Paul came to these people without having any particular knowledge of the major Greek philosophers. You can understand why he came to these intelligentsia in fear and trembling. "What line of thinking are you employing?" the Greek citizen would ask Paul. "In what philosophy is your wisdom based?" To these Paul states in the second reading for today, "My message and my preaching has none of the persuasive force of 'wise' argumentation. Instead it has the convincing power of the Holy Spirit." Then he reminds the Christians at Corinth, "As a result your faith rests not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."
Philosophy is good, important and necessary, but the wisdom of philosophy is infinitely inferior to the power of God. This is Paul's message to the new Christians at Corinth. It is his message to us as we are continually tempted to underestimate the value of our faith.
Sometimes we come upon our modern intelligentsia who will lay claim to the term of being wise because they have studied Kant, or Kierkegaard, or are well acquainted with the writings and beliefs of the East, the Buddhists or Hindus, or the Moslems, etc. An arrogant intellectual might ask: "You mean you haven't read Stephen Hawkin's A Brief History of Time?" The assumption would be that if we had read and understood that book we would be a lot wiser. This is not true. Having a grasp of all the knowledge there is in the world and all the great theories of the greatest of the philosophers may help develop our intellectual capacity and give us a clearer understanding of the world, but if this were the basis of our wisdom than we would not be wise. Instead, we would be fools. To the Christian, wisdom is not based on any person other than the person of Jesus Christ. Our wisdom is not lost in some document past or present, our wisdom is alive, because the Power of God lives.
Our wisdom is based not on theory but on faith.
I want to tell you a little story that illustrates this. This is a story about identical twin girls, Amy and Annie. The twins, Amy and Annie, were about one month away from their birth. Life was very pleasant for the twins. There was a constant source of food for each of them, even if sometimes it was a little spicier than they wanted. Their home was warm and comfortable. It seemed to move around a lot, but they were in lovely, velvety soft water, so they didn't mind it. They slept and played. One of their favorite games was kickboxing. One day, they got into an argument. Amy said that it she was sure looking forward to the day when she could see the Mommy face to face. Annie said, "How do you know there is a Mommy?" Amy said, well of course there is a Mommy, look at how wonderful our life is. We couldn't have this if there was not Mommy." Annie said, "Well, if there is a Mommy: show her to me. If I can't see the Mommy, I don't believe there is a Mommy." Amy could not show Annie the Mommy, but she could feel her presence and her love. The discussion and argument went on for about a month. Amy used to say to Annie, "You have to believe, you have to trust. There is more to life than meets the eye." And Annie would respond, "Stop being so simple, so naive. Use your mind and put your trust only in that which your mind can discover." Then one day their world became quite unsettled. The walls started squeezing them into a small space. Amy cried out, "Mommy I know you are out there. I need you now." Annie just cried and cried. She was at a total loss trying to understand what was happening. Her mind could not explain it. She was full of fear. Finally, she called out, "Mommy, I hope you exist because I am afraid and need someone to calm my fear." And the twins were born. After the initial shock of it all, they both felt the warmth and the love they had felt in their former home. And Annie realized that Amy was right. There is a Mommy, and the warmth and love she felt before and feels now was the very presence of the Mommy.
Paul is telling the people of Corinth and us that the reality which we do not see is more powerful, more certain, a deeper truth than the reality that we do see. The wisdom that our minds cannot come to is infinitely superior to the wisdom that is based solely on our intellectual capacity.
When sickness, trauma, or tragedy hit us; when our loved ones become ill, injured or die; it is Jesus Christ and Christ alone who brings order to the chaos of our lives. We are people who have been enlightened by Christ. Jesus Christ is God's answer to every question that has ever been or ever can be posed. We are called today to reveal the true wisdom of the Lord to the world. The wisdom not based on great intellects, but on the power of God. The world needs this still new wisdom. Enlightened by Christ, we are the light of the world.
Readings of the day:
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: