Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Wisdom 9:13-18b
This is part of the prayer that the Book of Wisdom puts on the lips of Solomon. The earliest version of Solomon’s prayer is in 1 Kings 3:6-9, where he prays for “understanding.” Then comes 2 Chronicles 1:9-10, where he prays for “wisdom” to help him in performing the duties of kingship.
The author of Wisdom expands on this point and enunciates the doctrine that the will of God can only be discerned by the help of wisdom and the Spirit of God—the parallelism suggesting that the two concepts are synonymous.
While verse 15 recalls Plato’s Phaedo, the author does not teach a non-biblical dualism of body/soul. The body is a hindrance to the knowledge of God’s will, not the seat of evil. It is its finite, not evil, character that is its drawback.
Only God’s Spirit, or wisdom, enables us to transcend that finitude.
Responsorial Psalm: 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Verses 3-6, from the first part of the psalm, point up the contrast between God’s eternity and human mortality. Compare this with the first part of the first reading.
Verses 12-14, 17 come from the second half of the psalm, which is a prayer for God’s favor as a compensation for human beings’ fleeting life, so that despite their transitoriness their work may prosper.
The prayer for wisdom in verse 12 recalls Solomon’s prayer.
Reading II: Philemon 9-10, 12-17
The letter to Philemon is the only personal letter of Paul that has survived. Onesimus, a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, a Christian of Colossae, had joined Paul where the latter was in prison (Rome is the traditional view; Ephesus is popular today because of the distances involved: Colossae-Ephesus rather than Colossae-Rome).
Under Paul’s influence, Onesimus had become a Christian. In sending him back to his master, Paul commends him as “no longer a slave but a brother.”
Paul did not thereby abolish slavery (that would have been impossible for the ancient world) but transformed the relationship between master and slave. Not until the nineteenth century did the Christian conscience come to realize that slavery as an institution is wrong.
Paul drew what consequences he could from his principle that in Christ there is neither slave nor free. Future generations will have to give their own implementation to that principle in the light of their concrete situation.
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
This Gospel consists of a string of sayings on the cost of discipleship, followed by two parables to illustrate the necessity of facing that cost (the tower-builder and the king going to war).
“Hate” (Lk 14:26) is harsh. It has been suggested that the original Aramaic meant simply “love less than.” But this in turn is probably too weak. The real meaning is that following Jesus means the surrender of the whole of one’s life.
Then, as we have already noted in an earlier passage, the disciple receives back from Christ those aspects of the old life that are now needed to provide the context in which the claims of discipleship have to be worked out.
The saying in verse 27 does not mean that all true disciples must be martyrs in the literal sense. Yet, martyrdom is discipleship carried to its ultimate conclusion. Hence the honor the Church has always paid to its martyrs.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University