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Being clever is not the same as being wise….

July 27, 2014

17th Sunday of Year A (27 July 2014)

This Sunday the Church throughout the world marks a ‘Day for Life’. This year we have been asked to alert our young people to their responsibility to protect the sanctity of life. So I have something to say to our young people, especially if you are about to start in higher education. How are you to recognise and reject the culture of death that pervades our society today? Where life is cheap, death is not mentioned, abortion is given on demand, euthanasia is seen as compassionate. It’s a completely mad world.

For a young person to be able to discern between what is right and wrong at critical points in their lives is tremendously important if they are not to make wrong choices and then spending a lifetime regretting and trying to put things right again. This morning we’ve heard how the young and inexperience Solomon, pray that his life would be guided by the gift of wisdom, for a heart that could discern between right and wrong choices.

Being a Christian in today’s world isn’t about touchy-feely sentimentality. It is about being “heard-headed”, practical and rational, co-operating with God by using our reason to decide how to worship and understand God, and how to faithfully follow His laws in our daily lives.

So for the young people amongst us who will soon leaving home, be aware that your faith will be under attack more than it ever has been before. Sadly, the atheistic tendency that pervades society also thrives, usually unchallenged, in our seats of learning. So if you’re off to college, you will repeatedly hear your highly qualified lecturers take cheap shots at Christianity, their personal opinions delivered as if they are facts. Your very faith will be challenged and you may wobble. Your fellow students will gleefully follow a path that rejects God’s truths – hiding their own lack of experience by what time will show was just immature bravado.

The interesting thing is to listen now to people my age who regret much of the godless morality they confidently pursued in their student days. People like Professor Germaine Greer, who 40 years ago was at the forefront of challenging the perceived wisdom of the day. Now she has changed her views, saying slightly things, like “Madonna was a middle-class girl pretending to be tough, a religious girl pretending to be irreligious.” And Dame Joan Bakewell, who campaigned in the 1960s for complete sexual freedom and those warning against it as fools: she now recognises she was very wrong.

A sure sign of losing your faith in such a morally confusing environment: you’ll be tempted to give up going to mass. Easing up on practicing your Faith may seem like a sign of independence, you may think it will help you ‘fit in’. But it will be a serious mistake that you’ll regret. You’ll leave yourself completely at the mercy of half-baked, ill informed and godless philosophies that attack everything you have been brought up to reject. As a young Christian adult that’s a difficult place to find yourself all alone for the first time. Here’s the tip. You are not the only Catholic. At university, find out where the Catholic Chaplaincy is, and make sure one of the first things you do is make contact, before it’s too late.

The reason why some people choose to go to Mass every week and others stay away is linked to the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel (Matthew 13: 44-52). And the reason is this: just because something is very valuable does not mean that everyone can see it. The Kingdom of Heaven is very valuable, but for most people, they cannot see it. They don’t “get it”. Why is it that some find the treasure and some don’t? Why is it that some extremely clever intellectual people go further, and for cheap laughs publicly reject and mock those who believe in God? The difference is faith. And faith is a gift from God. It is not inherited or caught from parents. It can be offered by God, but because it is not recognised, it can be rejected. To nurture one’s faith, one needs to be open to God in the first place. Sadly some people get distracted by the charms of this world – showing off, getting drunk, chasing fame and fortune. Others don’t ‘get God’ because they just don’t seem able to let go and allow God to touch them. They know there must be ‘something’ there, but it just doesn’t seem to click.

Now, did you notice how in the first reading (1 Kings 3: 5.7-12) it is God who is the one who comes to Solomon. God chooses to speak to Solomon. Sure, Solomon had been offering sacrifices to God before he had his encounter with God. So Solomon was searching very hard for God, he put himself in the right place and the right frame of mind to have an encounter with God.…. but then it was God who chose to speak to Solomon in a dream. In a dream. How do we know Solomon had a dream? He must have told someone about it, and the story was written down. Solomon was given the gift to discern that he was very close to God. He didn’t “feel” God present with his bodily senses when he was fully conscious. Instead he discerned the presence of God in a message sent in a dream, when he was completely at rest and not distracted by the busyness of the world. This is what St Paul means in the second lesson (Romans 8: 28-30) when he says that it is God who chooses us for His purposes, not us choosing God. We call this reaching out by God ‘grace’. Some people are sensitive to God working in their lives, they are given the gift of discerning what is God’s will for them. Solomon found hidden treasure by recognising what had happened to him, and he acted upon it – he sought advice about his dream. Solomon was certainly a wise king of Israel, and he was certainly chosen by God for a special purpose, but that did not mean he was a perfect saint in this world. He was a warrior king, with the power of life and death over others, he made mistakes, he committed sins.

The same is true for us. We must relentlessly pray to God to give us faith and help us keep our faith. And when God reaches out to us, we must be ready to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that we can recognise that God is very close to us and is involved in our daily lives. When he reaches out to us might not recognise that hidden treasure for what it really is. We might think it’s nothing, because we don’t “feel” any emotion. That is the way of the world, to expect our lives to be based entirely upon what our senses detect, rejecting anything that is spiritual as nonsense.

The eternal truths taught by the Church, the power and richness of the Scriptures, and the graces we receive from taking part in worshipping God and receiving the Sacraments during this Mass – these things are hidden from most people and don’t make any sense. Through the gift of Faith, through God’s grace, we come to discover God’s treasures. Once discovered we must be very careful that we don’t squander them or become complacent about them. Because there is a real danger that we too may fail to share those treasures with others.

Being a Christian is a hard-headed, lifestyle choice. It is not an easy path to follow. But as Christians we have been chosen by God to be a sign of Faith, standing up for a moral code that cherishes life from conception to death as a wonderful gift from God. We must pray to have the courage and wisdom to be that sign in our world today.

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