Our first reading alludes to Solomon’s dream where God bids the young king to ask for whatever favor he wishes. Instead of asking for wealth and power, Solomon pleads for wisdom. God, in fact, grants him the spirit of wisdom – and power, wealth, health, and beauty, as well. Solomon could only say,
“All good things came to me together with her (wisdom), and countless riches at her hands.”
How much wisdom the world needs today! Never has man had so much access to knowledge and information, yet never has he also been subjected to so much lies and deception that leave him confused and his mind distorted. Just think of the great destruction and harm done by fake news, conspiracy theories, revisionist ideas… in politics, health, social life and even in our relationships. Man may know much, but he has little understanding.
The advances man has made in science and technology are staggering and unprecedented. Yet for all his capability to produce and generate wealth, there has never been so much hunger and poverty in the world. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that, with today’s technology, there should no longer be any reason for anyone on this planet to be hungry.
Wisdom makes us see the true value of things and teaches to make the right decisions. I remember the story of the whistle by Benjamin Franklin. When he was seven years old, Benjamin offered to give all his coppers to a boy in exchange for a whistle which he found fascinating. Later, he learned that that the same amount could have bought him many more whistles and other things besides. He realized that he had paid too much for a tantalizing trifle. We too can readily exchange what is priceless for what is worthless, like when we sell our votes or when we betray a commitment for an illicit relationship.
What is wisdom? In the bible, wisdom is more than just knowledge and science. Wisdom is the ability to see things as God sees them and to understand things as God understands them. Wisdom enables us to view life from the perspective of God himself who created life. Wisdom is born from intimacy with God and communion with him.
In the gospel, a young man approaches Jesus and asks him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by telling him to obey the commandments. Communion with God starts with eliminating sin from our life (thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery…), but does not stop there. It leads to radical choice. “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth,” the young man replies. Jesus looks at him with love and says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” On hearing this, the youth goes away sad for he has many possessions.
What happens here? What brings an initial sincere longing for eternal life to such an anti-climax? Attachment to wealth can indeed be an obstacle to one’s quest for spiritual goods. More seriously, however, it is the youth’s ignorance of Jesus that prevents him from responding to Jesus’ invitation.
Not knowing who Jesus is, the rich young man does not have the heart to give up his possessions to follow a stranger. He does not know that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” the very eternal life he seeks and wishes to inherit.
Had he chosen Jesus in exchange for his possessions, he would have gained eternal life, and as with Solomon, many more things besides. Answering Peter’s query on what befalls those who have left everything to follow Jesus, the Lord replies, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age… and eternal life in the age to come.”*