Wis 13:1-9; Ps 19:2-5; Lk 17:26-37
Indeed, the witness of all the saints confronts the foolishness of those who seek beauty and power in this world without seeking The Source of all beauty and power. True wisdom enables such a search to bear fruit, a fruit that will last through centuries of violence and foolishness. However, will wisdom triumph in the lives of those who seek to preserve life? They will lose their lives, but those who lose their lives in loving service will triumph over foolishness.
The inspired author of the Book of Wisdom seems to have studied the teachings of Vatican Council I or at the very least Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. Perhaps, it’s more historically accurate to say that these latter documents were inspired by Wisdom. The relentless search for power and beauty in history reveals the hidden presence of the Creator of heaven and earth, the all-powerful LORD whose beauty is painful to behold. At first this reading seems to give the seeker a break, “For they indeed have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find him. For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.” However, this excuse, too, is lame. If one is wise enough to seek the greatest and most beautiful how can they not find it? Perhaps, the revealed wisdom of God has not reached their ears? Perhaps, the believers in their time were not beautiful with virtue or strong in the truth? In every age the critique of Gandhi applies when he said, “I love your Christ, it’s you Christians I find hard to take.” Only growth in the beauty and strength of the Living God will enable us to confront the foolishness of those who seek and do not find.
The Lord Jesus continues to teach his disciples about the mystery of the cross when he tells them in today’s gospel, “Whoever seeks to preserve his live will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” The only thing that will save us in the end is the grace and truth revealed in the Crucified. In the Lord Jesus Christ we are rescued from the natural and earth bound instinct to preserve our lives. For our own good we have this natural response to danger that provides us with the strength for the flight or for the fight. We tend to use all our strength in holding on to what gives us meaning, purpose, and comfort. Yet, the threat of flood and fire, the threat of overwhelming power and burning judgment must be faced. It takes great energy to escape for a whole lifetime the demands of love, divine and boundless. It takes too much energy to run and hide forever from the face of God who loves us unconditionally and without regret. Holding on to what we know and love seems to preserve our life, yet, unless we deny ourselves take up our cross and follow Christ, we lose everything we tried so hard to preserve. Only when we let go and loose our very self in the mystery of God’s love in Christ will we find out who we are and to whom we belong. We cannot give ourselves eternal meaning, boundless significance, or everlasting purpose. We cannot save ourselves. Sooner or later we must face the fact of death; sooner or later we must deal with the end of the world, as we know it. Such an insight will startle us; will come when we least expect it, right in the middle of everyday life, when we are grinding meal or while we are sleeping. It seems that the some of the disciples are still asleep; some need to have their eyes opened. Still some as the question “Where, Lord?” Some still do not know where the Kingdom of God is to be found. The Kingdom of God is wherever the law of the Cross is obeyed, wherever people loose themselves in loving service of God and neighbor. The Kingdom of God is not a place; it is in the human heart that has lost itself in love and died to itself to live, forever. Wherever the dead body lies, there the vultures gather; wherever the Cross of Christ is embraced there the Kingdom is found, alive and well in the Church.