Jesus Our Shepherd

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
06 November 2011

Homily
Rev. Francis Baiocchi

Today, the Scriptures speak to us of wisdom, that much desired but relatively rare human trait. Some mistake knowledge for wisdom, but knowledge is not wisdom. Some very knowledgeable people make a terrible mess of their lives. They lack wisdom. Some people with post-graduate degrees cannot make sense of important events in their lives. They too lack wisdom.

What is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to see the big picture clearly and not get lost in the details. One illustration of wisdom comes from a story about porcupines. One particular winter was the coldest porcupines had ever experienced. Many had already died because of the freezing cold, and many more would die. Realizing this, the porcupines in the area decided to come together to share each others body heat to stay warm and alive. But in doing so, they discovered that in such close proximity their sharp quills were hurting each other.

So they chose instead to move apart to stop the hurt, and they did. But then the porcupines began again to die from the cold, alone and frozen. The survivors quickly understood: either stay together, accepting the troublesome pain of each others sharp quills, or separate and die. With porcupine wisdom, they decided to come back together, live with the little hurts in order to have the life-giving warmth of their companions. In so doing they all survived the deep winter freeze.

What wisdom might we learn from these porcupines? Perhaps it is this: The best relationship is not the one that brings perfect creatures together. The best relationship is the one in which we learn to live with each others imperfections.

Yet there is a deeper wisdom today's readings call us to embrace. In the 1st reading, Wisdom is identified as a companion who helps us make sense of our human journeys. As such, Wisdom confirms the intention of Jesus. Jesus wants this world – not heaven, but this world itself – to become a place where love overcomes indifference, compassion trumps profit margins, and justice prevails. What's more, Jesus wants us to be his agents to bring this new world into being. We are the eyes of Jesus, the hands of Jesus, the presence of Jesus in today's world.

We are on earth not simply to “individually “save our souls” as the old catechism says. We are here to be the community of people that fully embraces the beatitudes of Jesus: merciful, forgiving, peacemaking, promoting justice in all life circumstances. We gather here on Sundays – imperfect people in close proximity (much like the porcupines) to celebrate God's goodness in our lives. We listen to the Gospel of Jesus – not just the parts of that Gospel that we're comfortable hearing, but the full Gospel of Jesus. We apply the Gospel to our lives as best we can. We are nourished at the Communion, then we are sent by Jesus to bring his love, compassion, justice and forgiveness to people who are far too often treated in loveless, compassion-less, unjust and unforgiving ways.

Whenever we absent ourselves from these Sunday gatherings for whatever reasons, we lose the community's warmth, proximity and support. But our mission is too important to let that happen. Our human imperfections should never keep us apart. The porcupines learned that. Let's hope our human wisdom can match that of the porcupines during their coldest winter ever.