Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr
Art: A Gift from God by Ron DiCianni © 2013. Image used by Permission www.TapestryProductions.com
“God is Light”
Reading 1 WIS 7:22B–8:1
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.
For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily
and governs all things well.
Responsorial PsalmPS 119:89, 90, 91, 130, 135, 175
Your word, O LORD, endures forever;
it is firm as the heavens.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Through all generations your truth endures;
you have established the earth, and it stands firm.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
According to your ordinances they still stand firm:
all things serve you.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord:
whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 17:20-25
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”
Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come.
In their mind, it was a definitive time that would be suddenly realised by the arrival of a triumphant Messiah-King. Jesus says it is not going to be like that at all. The Kingdom cannot be found by looking around for telltale signs so that you can say it is ‘here’ or ‘there’.
No, says Jesus, “the reign of God is already in your midst”. In other words, it is right in front of them. It is first of all in the very person of Jesus, who is the embodiment of the God’s Reign. He is the Messiah-King. He is the living incarnation of God’s loving power revealed in his authoritative teaching, in his many healings of the sick, in his freeing of those from the power of evil spirits and in his compassion for the sinner and the outcast. All are clear evidence of the reign of God “in their midst”.
In every age, there are people who get worked up about the “final coming of Christ”. The recent end of the millennium was such a time. But, instead of focusing on a date in the calendar we should be focusing on the realities of our everyday lives where, to those with eyes to see, the reign of God can easily be discerned working in other people’s lives and in our own. Wherever people are reflecting in their lives the vision of life, the values that Jesus revealed to us, the Kingdom is there. And such people are not confined to the Church. They can be and are found everywhere.
Jesus then turns to his disciples telling them they will long to see the “one day of the Son of Man” but will not see it. In the very early Church many were convinced that Jesus would make his final coming in their own lifetime. It is likely that, from time to time, certain events were interpreted as signs of that final coming. People were saying that “he is to found in this place or that”. But by the time Luke’s gospel was written most of that first generation of Christians had died and there was still no sign of Jesus’ coming. The ‘days’ following his expected coming may have all the more been longed for during times of severe persecution when they looked for relief and help from their pain. An anxiety reflected in the story of the disciples’ trying to wake a sleeping Jesus while their boat is threatened by mountainous seas (Mark 4:35-41).
Jesus says that, when his day does come, it will “be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other”. It will be both sudden and everywhere. In the meantime, Jesus “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age”. Words which clearly refer to his own suffering and death but which can also be applied to the whole Risen Christ, including the Church, his risen Body, down to our own age.
So, on the one hand, the reign of God is already here among us and we need look no further than the daily experiences of our own lives to know and experience the power and presence of Jesus. On the other hand, the time of that final coming which will “wipe every tear from our eyes” and be the end of all suffering and rejection is not for us to decide – nor to be anxious about.
As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar year, the Church now focuses on the theme of the Second Coming of Christ. Like the Pharisees and the Jews in the gospel, we too are curious about the end of time. We too indulge in all sorts of speculation. Will the world come to an end? Will it be destroyed? When will it come? What signs will precede the Day of the Lord?
When we ask these questions, it shows that we are influenced by the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament’s understanding of the Day of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the prophets described the end time as the “Day of the Lord.” It would be a day when God would manifest Himself in all His glory and power, judging all of humanity, punishing His enemies and sinners whilst rewarding the just. It will be a day of judgment, not just for Israel but for all the nations. (cf Amos 5:18-20) At the same time, in the book of Daniel, the Day of the Lord is associated with the Son of Man. (cf Dn 7:13-14) He will be the judge of all the nations, the living and the dead, on behalf of Yahweh, and then God’s Kingdom will finally be established. Within this context, we can appreciate Jesus’ usage of the term “Son of man” to self-designate Himself, since it has messianic connotations in connection with the Day of the Lord. His Second Coming will bring about the work of restoration and final judgment and the full realization of the Kingdom of God.
Even then, it will be helpful to recognize the two different strands of interpretation with respect to the Day of the Lord. In apocalyptic eschatology, the end of time is conceived in terms of the destruction of the earth so that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. This is very much the understanding in the prophecy of Joel. We see this also in the Letter of Peter, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat … Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:12-13) However, another view, namely, the prophetic eschatological position, holds that this earth and heaven will not be destroyed but be created totally new through a radical transformation. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create a Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:17-19)
Regardless of whichever view we hold with respect to the end of time, one thing is certain, we will know when the Day of the Lord comes. Speaking about the New Covenant, Jeremiah said, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time … I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33-34) So no special sign is needed to know the coming of Christ or the Day of the Lord because all will recognize Him, His presence and power as clearly as the lightning in the sky, considering that in the Desert, it would be even so strikingly seen since the sky is almost always clear.
Of course, the Day of the Lord is not only to be understood as coming at the end of time but it in fact it has already come. This accounts for Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees that “the kingdom of God is among you.” In other words, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person. In Him, God reigns as seen in His authoritative preaching, in His works of healing and exorcisms and in His behavior of welcoming and mixing with sinners, especially having meals with them. Of course the religious leaders could not accept the truth of what Jesus taught and His identity as the Messiah and the Son of God.
The coming of God’s Kingdom, according to Jesus, is not so much seen in the cosmological phenomena but in a person who submits Himself to the rule of God, the rule of love. Jesus in that sense is the sure sign, for in Him God reigns, both in His life on earth and especially at His passion, death and resurrection. In His death, we see the love of God made visible. In His resurrection, we see already the glory and power of God’s victory over sin and death. Hence, He said, “for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.” So if we could confidently claim that the Kingdom of God has already come, it is but our declaration that in Christ, the powers of darkness and sin have been overcome. We who submit ourselves to Christ’s rule will share in His victory over Satan, sin and death too.
On the other hand, the kingdom is already here existentially in our hearts when Jesus lives in us. The Kingdom of God is not just near us but is within us. “Whoever loves me will keep my word; and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23) The moment when we allow Him to reign in our hearts; the moment when we live the gospel life that He has shown and taught us, especially living out the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, we are living under the reign of the Kingdom. But this is not possible by our own strength, except with the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit. Only with God’s grace can the Kingdom enter into our lives.
Consequently, for the kingdom to take root in our hearts and minds, we must receive the Holy Spirit, as the first reading from the book of wisdom instructs us. The author of Wisdom describes wisdom in feminine terms, calling her “the breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness. Although alone, she can do all; herself unchanging, she makes all things new. In each generation, she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets; for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.” The last verse is significant; that only the man who lives with Wisdom is loved by God.
Wisdom is not only a gift of the Holy Spirit but also a personification of the Word of God, since the Word is identical with Wisdom. Jesus, in St John’s gospel, is the Word of God made flesh. Again the psalmist sings praises to the Word of God. He says, “Your word is for ever, O Lord. According to your ordinances they still stand firm: all things serve you. The revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple. Let your countenance shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.” So wisdom stands both for the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Jesus, who is the Word of God, imparts us the Holy Spirit upon His resurrection. And what better way is there to receive the Wisdom of God in the Holy Spirit than through the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments where Jesus comes to live in us and transform our hearts and minds?
By welcoming Jesus and His Spirit into our hearts, the love of God will dwell in us. The Father and the Son who live in us in the Holy Spirit will transform our hearts and empower us to live the Trinitarian life of love and unity. So let us consciously continue to immerse ourselves in the Word of God in prayer so that His Spirit dwells in us and gives us His gifts of intelligence, holiness, purity, steadfastness, benevolence and goodness to live the life of God in our lives.
Commentary on Wisdom 7:22-8:1 From Living Space
Today’s passage is a hymn to Wisdom. It reflects much of Greek philosophical influence affecting the Jewish author. He treats Wisdom as a person and gives his own version of earlier personifications. In so far as Wisdom is identified with God as its origin, we might rephrase John to say that “in the beginning there was Wisdom and the Wisdom was with God and the Wisdom was God”.
The writer describes both the nature and origin of Wisdom and begins by listing 21 attributes of Wisdom. Borrowing freely from the vocabulary of Greek philosophy, the author next points out the various characteristics of Wisdom and concludes by identifying it with divine providence – in the last sentence of our reading.
The eulogy begins with a listing of 21 attributes of Wisdom, divided into three sets of seven each, that is, the multiplication of seven (for perfection) by three (for divinity). It is, in the thinking of the time, the most perfect of perfect numbers. The attributes are set out as follows so that each one can be looked at and considered separately. (Alternative translations from the New American Bible are given in parentheses for a number of attributes.)
For within Wisdom is a spirit
mobile (or agile)
incisive (or clear)
unsullied (or unstained)
lucid (or certain)
benevolent (or loving the good)
shrewd (or keen)
irresistible (or unhampered)
friendly to other people (or kindly)
steadfast (or firm)
dependable (or secure)
unperturbed (or tranquil)
all-surveying (or all-seeing)
penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle of spirits
(or pervading all spirits, be they intelligent, pure and very subtle)
There then follow some other attributes of Wisdom:
She is quicker to move than any other movement.
She is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
Wisdom is totally devoid of any deception or distortion; she provides a clear vision which “pervades and permeates all things”.
She is a breath of the power of God, “a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty”. The Spirit of God is also described as a movement of air – a ‘breath’ or a ‘wind’. Speaking to Nicodemus Jesus said: “The wind blows where it will… so it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit” (John 3:8), where there is a play on the word pneuma, meaning both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’. Similarly at Pentecost the coming of the Spirit is accompanied by a wind blowing through the place where the disciples are gathered. Similarly, on the cross Jesus’ death is described as giving out the pneuma – which can be both his final breath and also his Spirit. “Then Jesus bowed his head, and handed over his Spirit/breath (pneuma)” (John 19:30) – Pentecost on the cross.
The ‘glory of the Almighty’ is the ‘eternal light’ that is God. In the Old Testament God is never called ‘light’. Some earlier texts already hinted at the concept of a transcendent light emanating from God, illuminating the faithful or his nation, being the radiance of his glory, or residing with him but it will only be in the First Letter of John that we read explicitly “God is light” (1 John 1:5). Jesus himself will say virtually the same thing: “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12).
Wisdom is a reflection of the eternal light of God, “an untarnished mirror of God’s active power and the image of his goodness”. When we are possessed by true wisdom we are already in touch with God, with his power which is his love and with his goodness.
There is a loftiness and exclusiveness about Wisdom, for she is unique. “Although she is alone, she can do everything.” Though herself unchanging and unchangeable, she changes the world through her insight and unending creativity.
In generation after generation she has passed into the lives of good people, making them “into God’s friends and prophets”. In the Old Testament such friends were Abraham and Moses. Jesus, as the Son of God, called his disciples his friends. Prophets include not only the great prophets and inspired scribes, but all who, by their holy life and intimacy with God, penetrate into the knowledge of his will and his mysteries, and so become his authorised ‘interpreters’ to enlighten their fellows. Among these will be the many outstanding spiritual and theological writers and preachers who have given new insights into living with God and for God.
“God loves only those who dwell with Wisdom.” Of course, God, who is Love, extends that love infinitely and equally to every single person and thing he has created. It is never withdrawn. But obviously, there is a special relationship with those who open their hearts and respond totally to the Love extended to them and who, in turn, pass that Love on to all those who come into their lives.
There is a brightness to Wisdom that is unique. “More splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations.” Since those words were written, we know so much more about the enormity of the constellations and the galaxies and yet the statement remains perfectly valid. “Compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night.” Nothing can avail against Wisdom, which contains all Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
And, at the end, Wisdom is linked with the loving Providence of God which governs our world: “She reaches from one end of the world to the other and governs the whole world for its good.” The attributes that Paul gives to love in his famous passage in his First Letter to the Corinthians can also be applied to Wisdom. Divine Wisdom embraces both Truth and Love.
To be a friend of God, then, is to share his Wisdom, that is, to see and understand reality as he does. This is the most precious thing we can have in life for it gives meaning and direction to everything that we experience. It is to live in a light that is never extinguished and against which evil is impotent.
Let us pray today for this wisdom that will guide our lives and bring us the happiness, peace and security which we constantly seek.
Tags: begotten of the Spirit, final coming, his own suffering and death, Jesus “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age”, John 19:30, John 3:8, Lk 17:20-25, Mark 4:35-41, Memorial of Saint Josaphat, November 12 2015, pneuma, practice these principles in all our affairs, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 119, Risen Christ, Second Coming of Christ, St. Josaphat, the cross Jesus’ death is described as giving out the pneuma, the end of all suffering and rejection is not for us to decide, the values that Jesus revealed to us, Wis 7:22b–8:1, wisdom