Jesus Our Shepherd

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
09 September 2007

Homily
Rev. Jim Ryan

“Which of us can know the mind of God?” --Wisdom 9:13

This passage from the Book of Wisdom, in my humble opinion, is among the most inspirational writing in all of religious literature. On so many levels we receive divine gifts in this excursus on Wisdom. There is the realization that Wisdom is the feminine spirit of God that from the beginning reveals who God is for us and who God is calling us to be - the best we can be. There is also the inspiration we receive in reading this passage that all our best human efforts pale before the all-loving and all-powerful God. And there is the humility to be discovered that yes, we can bask in God’s sunlight but we cannot know fully the mind of God.

The liturgists tell us that the scripture cycle of readings are presented in such a way that the Old Testament readings in the Sunday series are meant to complement or serve in an interpretive fashion the Gospel reading of the day. Well, today’s Gospel with the very direct and hard driven demand that one abandon all family to follow Jesus is balanced with this Wisdom passage that allows us to celebrate our ignorance before God’s ways and to enjoy that we are the dependent ones before the Creator’s gifts.

There are those who want to literally interpret their religion’s scriptures. Their belief seems to be that only a literal application of what we read will reveal God’s true mind. We see the unfortunate and even tragic result of such literalism. Whether the practitioner reads texts from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist or other religious traditions there seems to be a tragic line in their interpretations. The human mind has shown it can justify murder and terror in any literal readings in religion.

I’m reading a book, “Terror in the Mind of God,” in which the author has deeply researched just such literalisms. He shows the justifications of the literalists who – in any religion – want to kill under God’s commands and so they find just the right passages to do so. We believe not in such killing instincts and interpretations, but rather in the Wisdom that says beyond all our best efforts and achievements is the God of Love , Justice, and Mercy.

As the Wisdom author was inspired to write:
As for your will, O God,
who could have learned it,
had you not granted Wisdom,
and sent your holy Spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth
been straightened because of Wisdom,
and humankind has been saved
and taught what pleases you by Wisdom.


Today we members of Jesus Our Shepherd are celebrating our 5th Annual Community Picnic on the banks of beautiful Lake Sinnissippi as guests of one of our parishioner families. This is a celebration in God’s beauty, yes, even God’s pleasure – a gift from the Wisdom of God to us and for us. Today we can easily see the folly of such violent literalisms and directly enjoy the Spirit whose call to us is for unity, peace, and sustaining all these gifts of creation. How blessed we are to gather in the Name of Christ whose message is fundamentally one for building and not destroying, loving and not hating, celebrating and not brooding.

And for all those who just might think they have the mind of God figured out, however they get to that destination, here’s a suggestion. And I ask it while we gather in the outdoors of God’s beauty, yet after a week of pesty bitings and swats. To further plumb the depths of God’s mind let’s ask, “But God, why the mosquito?” :)