St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Epiphany I : Fr Timothy Lowes

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I recall exactly, the moment I thought, ‘this is it,..the end is indeed nigh.” The context was innocuous. Invigilating Matrics writing English Paper ONE.

I’m musing: “ My word, these fine young men will soon go out into the world and make a marked difference to life as we know it. Extravagantly expensively- educated future captains of all they survey. Money well spent.

Hand goes up. I glide across to his desk. “Yes Cartright” , I whisper, “what’s the matter?” “Excuse me Father, my pen broke, can you perhaps, maybe borrow me another one?” I knew then that the School Motto must at once be changed from SEMPER HABE FIDEM (Always have Faith) to OMISSA SPE (Abandon all Hope).

There’s a marked paradox about these days. No, it’s always been the case in one form or another.  In spite of the endless treasure- trove of information modern education carves into receptive minds, what is lacking in great swathes is the imparting of WISDOM.-and in truth ,”perhaps, maybe borrowing a pen” is in itself NOT what I’m referring to- scary as that may be after you’ve expended  a few million quid to educate the boy.

We are told in the Gospel this morning, that the boy Jesus, increased in WISDOM and stature and in favour with God and people .And here we get our clue, for THIS wisdom pertains to what is found in the book of Proverbs-part of the Biblical Wisdom literature. Holy Philosophy, if you like.

“My child, do not forget my law

But let your heart keep my commandment

For length of days ,and years of life and peace, they will be added to you”.

This is no invocation to follow ground rules- rather a matter of…’let me draw your attention to God’s eternal, perfect LAW. This is how God’s mind works. So, perhaps worthwhile paying attention to’, as well as the telling exhortation to “ACT UPON IT”.

Let your HEART keep it-in other words!

Pertinently, Jeremiah describes how God will write His law on the hearts of the people so they will know instinctively what to do.

“ I will put my law in their minds and hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”.

Not merely reciting and remembering, but letting them penetrate our very being.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them round your neck, write them on your heart.”

WISDOM, clearly puts God first in one’s attitude to LIVING this one life given us. There is no “space for it on the agenda, if there’s time”.

 

Well now, this is all sterling, stirring stuff, but it does beg the question….HOW DOES ONE GO ABOUT IMPLEMENTING this. And therein lies our dilemma. Wisdom is not something we “instinctively “ have, and though, rather amusingly it  requires an intelligent approach, it’s not a head thing but a heart thing. And, it all begins with AWARENESS. By seeing and becoming aware of ALL the realities and ALL the truths which surround us-and THAT requires the undoing of that most embedded habit of all- some degree of detachment of self.

AS long as the PRIMARY lens through which you and I see life, reality and most pertinently OTHERS, insistently remains a ME, MINE and MINE scope, Biblical Wisdom will remain by and large elusive “ all the length of our days”. That is a sure route into “no-man’s land” fraught with mines and barbed wire. “ There be dragons”. If all we take into life’s journey is a soaring, iridescent determination to ensure and insist that the STATUS QUO is meticulously, even violently (if that is what is required), maintained, God help us.

Wisdom does not inhabit such space.

Wisdom requires a significant shift in our awareness, our behaviour and our doing. It leads to a non-dualistic, comtemplative mind- and such a mind holds the TRUTH, humbly i.e. “if it’s true, it is it’s own best argument”. We are now able to hold creative tensions together, and not simply, instinctively resort to the panicky, defensive “old chestnuts”, as our only means of response.

“ But we’ve always done it like this”

“I remember the good old days..things worked”

“ Now, in my day, this sort of thing would never have happened”

“ I am RIGHT!”

“People used to know their place”.

Wisdon enlightens us to the truth that “the Other”, is not instinctively THE ENEMY.

Wisdom enables us to view life and people through the Divine lens- it IS different. “ As far as the East is Separated from the West, so My ways are different from yours.” Looking contemplatively through the lens of Wisdom, we begin to see and act NON-EGOCENTRICALLY and learn an astonishing truth. The OTHER person has as much Divine right to life as I do.

That in spite of life’s dilemmas, peoples shadow sides, in spite of very real and oft times scary contradictions we encounter, “they” are not the “enemy” who must be eradicated and crushed-for Wisdom teaches us to hold to the reality that everyone has a “story to be told”, and learn to hold these creative tensions together…and to grow and grow up in this space.

Put bluntly, the mendacious ego simply does not know how to do this. It is pathologically self-centred. A lack of wisdom reverts back back to non-contemplative thinking and we instinctively partition reality into “my world” and “their world”. Contemplative thinking equips us to honour the underlying unity of all things, of all parts of the Divine plan and to work with each’s distinctiveness.

Wisdom exhorts us to SEEK. Latin “QUESTO”. Wisdom triggers a life of systematic asking- whilst all the while, allowing for the wonder of it all to ever refine the questioning and the journey itself, so that it becomes about the “humility of the quest itself”.

Jesus grew in WISDOM…and changed His world and ours.

There’s no reason we can’t do the same.

 

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