If any of you remember the movie Men in Black, there is an important scene at the beginning of the movie. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) are investigating an alien crime scene and Agent J, Will Smith, is still not convinced that there are aliens walking among us on earth. As he leaves the crime scene he walks out the door, sees a bug and decides to purposefully squash the bug and then pauses for a second. The bug looks up at him and says something like “Thanks Mate. Mighty fine of you. Good night”.
This is an important scene for two reasons: up to this point, 1) Agent J has looked at bugs as something less than, and 2) there could be things going on in this world that don’t make sense, and really do effect society. He begins to understand that the world does not revolve around him and that our choices can have grave consequences. In a sense, the scene shows Agent J gaining perspective and wisdom about the world. And that is just a movie that came out in 1997, based on a comic book in 1990, 33 years ago.
So, 200 years before the birth of Christ, we see how important our choices are when Sirach writes, “If you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” Sirach gives his people the understanding of how important choice is. There are no good or bad choices, a choice is simply an action. Wisdom helps us understand the consequences of our actions. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given to him.”
Choices change us because we learn from them. But how do we know if the choice will be the one that changes our lives or the one that shows us we need to learn a bit more about what happens around us. Sirach tells us “Immense is the Wisdom of the Lord.” So then, we must learn about the Lord, pray often, read the bible and use the wisdom God gives us to see that there is no one who is “less than” or “unworthy” or “below us.”
If we see others as something insignificant, or make them into a thing, that is the beginning of poor choices and poor changes in the world around us. Once we make ourselves better than anyone else around us, it could lead to a certain ambivalence or blindness that all people are made in the image and likeness of God; that our world is just here for our convenience, to use and throw away; that
things like governments, wars, earthquakes and tragedy are something that happens to others “over there”; and question, how does that affect me? I can’t do anything about it.” Sometimes we just turn the page to the comics in the newspaper of flip the channel or scroll down to the next news item. In two or three days, the news cycle will end and something else will grab the attention of the world.
St. Paul says that wisdom is for those who are mature, those who can use it because they believe God’s wisdom is mysterious and hidden. He said if the people of his age had had a heavenly wisdom they would have never crucified the Christ.
Jesus made the choice to go to the cross. He could have kept quiet, run away, blamed his teachings on someone else, recanted, or maybe even somehow called on God the Father and the Holy Spirit to sneak him back to heaven. In his choice to go to the cross, as awful as that was, he knew that others could learn from it. He knew he would rise. Finally, God is able to say: “Now I have their attention. I have found a way to make them listen to me call out: “Come back to me. Blessed are they who follow the Lord.”
Jesus’ choice to do the right thing, to follow God’s will, is shown to the people as a free choice. We all have the freedom to choose. Wisdom just helps make that choice a bit clearer and a bit easier.
The Gospel may seem to be only about the commandments, and the very difficult ones at that. Murder, adultery, divorce, and swearing, which means telling the truth or lying. If we see anyone who breaks these commandments as someone “less than” we are, we miss the point of the commandments. Any of us can break the commandments. And as hard as we try, we probably break them every day. But the Lord asks us to dig deeper. Each commandment has a precursor to
the action. In the case of murder, physical or psychological or spiritual, anger or despair usually comes before; we see our brothers and sisters as fools, libel to judgement.
Wisdom helps us hear Jesus say: there must be reconciliation with others before you bring your gift to the altar. The choice is to reconcile or be handed over to the guard and be thrown into prison.
Jesus says the underlying reasons for murder, adultery, and divorce, are not because there are bad people in these cases. If we do these things, do we really have to pull out our eye or cut off a limb. If that were the case, as the saying goes, the world would be full of blind people on crutches. The wisdom of Jesus is not that cruel or crass. He says those things to underscore the importance of
maintaining right virtue. The choice is continued respect, without judgment, for the ones who find themselves in those difficult situations. Using our God given wisdom we are called to dig deeper, looking at the precursor to the sin: in this case it is again, seeing one as less than, not caring about the consequences. Using God’s wisdom to bring as much peace as needed in those situations. If we care and are kind at the most difficult of times, we see the goodness in the people around us and the forgiveness of God to us who need it.
Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. This is a hard one. Depending on your background and family, your life growing up… swearing can slip out at any moment. But swearing about God, or to God, making a vow and breaking it can lead to some rough situations. Sometimes when people hear our mouths, swearing, gossip, lies, people say: “If that is what a Catholic acts like, then I don’t want to be one.” By doing these actions, we are the ones who make ourselves less than. The precursor is the thought that we are more important than even God, even if just for a split second. Wisdom is hard to invite into this quick situation, but if we live closer to God than the world, we might be able to catch
ourselves before it happens.
Jesus says “But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven; not by earth; nor by Jerusalem; by your own head. Say what you mean: Let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No.”
So what does the life of a faithful person look like? Life is to be found in the choice to keep the commandments and to pursue the understanding the Lord’s Wisdom. We cannot follow the Commandments by ourselves. We need to see the world as one, given to all of us, to help each other make choices that benefit the all, and raise up those who others see as less than. In this way the Law of the Commandments is fulfilled and Wisdom helps us understand that God is present in every deed.