Our first reading today personifies Wisdom and proclaims her preciousbeyond measure. Compared to her, silver and gold are just muck andsand. Even health, beauty and the very light of day pale in comparison toWisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is freedom from illusion. To be wiseis to see clearly, and to know how to cope with what you see. Wisdom isknowing the truth and dealing with it. The alternative is to embrace self-protective,self-promoting fantasies about the world and about ourselves.It’s tempting to choose the fantasy to aspire to a kind of self-hypnosisin which we pretend to believe some plausible narrative that will enable usto acquire more muck and sand than the next person. May we have thewisdom to avoid that alternative.
God has no illusions, about the world or about us. “Indeed the wordof God issharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even betweensoul and spiritand able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposedto the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” This is one ofthose occasions on which we are invited to imitate God to act like Godacts. We are called to try to know ourselves like God knows us to dareto expose ourselves to ourselves.
This is the invitation Jesus offers to the young man in our Gospel.Until his encounter with Our Lord, his life has conformed quite well to a toa plausible narrative. In his own eyes he is a virtuous man who justhappens to be wealthy. He’s a good man whose salvation is assured. Heruns after Jesus in order to top up his self-assurance that he is doingeverything right. Jesus throws him off balance him by remarking thatonly God is good. Then he shatters his complacency by telling him, “Go,sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure inheaven; then come, follow me.” And the man goes away sad, havinglearned that, in reality, he is not a good man who happens to be rich, buta rich man playing at being good, who is ultimately counting upon hiswealth to save him. Fond hope.
In the movie, “The Matrix,” Morpheus offers Neo a choice: “You takethe blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believewhatever you want to believe. You take the red pilland I show you howdeep the rabbit hole goes.” The blue pill offers comforting illusion. Thered pill reveals the truth. In faith, we are offered an analogous choice.Will we desperately prop up comforting fictions about our world and ourselves, or will we chose wisdom and embrace the truth? In making ourchoice we are emboldened by the conviction that the truth is not somenihilistic dystopia. The truth is Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, thetruth and the life.” The truth is that the God who is Love has the lastword in our world and in our lives. Compared to that Wisdom, everythingelse is muck and sand.
Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”