Becoming the Wisest Fools Around, 22nd Thursday (II), September 1, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
September 1, 2016
1 Cor 3:18-23, Ps 24, Lk 5:1-11


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s first reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians and us, “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” We see an illustration of how God’s wisdom turns human wisdom upside down in today’s Gospel. After having borrowed Peter’s boat as a floating pulpit to preach to the crowds, Jesus tells Peter to take his boat and put out into the deep water, lowering his nets for a catch. Peter had already worked all night and caught nothing. He wasn’t just tired but discouraged. The command of the Lord was absurd to anyone experienced in fishing on the Sea of Galilee, where people caught fish in shallow water at night time, not deep water in daylight. It would be as if a fisherman had told Jesus, a carpenter, to drive in nails by holding the head of the hammer and striking with the handle. Peter, however, at the word’s Lord, put out into the deep and caught the biggest catch of his life. The wisdom of this world is indeed foolishness in the God-man’s eyes! That trust in the Lord that led him to put out into the deep was meant by the Lord to teach Peter and Andrew, James and John, about the life of faith and the work of evangelization: even when it seems something “won’t work,” God can bring extraordinary results.
  • We see this truth contrasting God’s versus worldly wisdom throughout this scene and throughout salvation history. Worldly wisdom would choose a good man rather than one whose first words were “depart from me for I am a sinner,” a rabbi rather than a fisherman, a nobleman rather than someone most considered a nobody, but as St. Paul told us on Saturday, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.”
  • If we wish, like Peter, to be Jesus’ followers, we need to learn to trust in his wisdom far more than the world’s. To the Jews, as St. Paul described last Friday, the Cross is a scandal, to the Greek’s it’s folly, but to those with faith, to those who are fools full of God’s wisdom, it’s the “power and the wisdom of God.” It’s craziness to have Jesus’ version of talent recruitment, choosing the weak and ignobly born ignoramuses to shame the strong, worldly wise nobles of the world, but that’s precisely what God did. To worldly wisdom, the earth is just ours to exploit as we wish; but on this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, we recognize that our common home is a book in which God the author enters into relationship with us, bestowing on us this great gift and asking of us that we learn to be good stewards of this gift, increasing and multiplying, tilling and subduing, and sharing in his dominion. Perhaps most strikingly, to worldly wisdom, the beatitudes are farcical. To be happy worldly wisdom says we need to be rich, whereas Jesus’ wisdom says we need to be poor in spirit; worldly wisdom says we need to be strong and powerful,, Jesus’ wisdom says we need to be meek and peacemaking; worldly wisdom says we need to have all our desires satiated,  whereas Jesus’ wisdom says be starving for holiness; worldly wisdom says we need to give our libido free rein, whereas Jesus says we need to be pure in heart; and worldly wisdom says we need to be popular and liked by everyone, whereas Jesus’ wisdom says we need to be persecuted and reviled because of him. The question for us is whether we’re wise according to God’s wisdom or the world.
  • Many consider themselves wise in this age and judge the wisdom of God by those standards rather than the other way around. They look at the world through the lens of politics and try to box everything in the Church into conversatives versus liberals. They are beholden to psychology and evaluate the entire spiritual life as a think of the psyche instead of the Spirit. They have a strong notion of the philosophy of history and look at everything as if it’s history repeating itself and as if God can’t do anything novel. They’re empiricists and don’t think anything in the faith is real unless it can be measured scientifically. Or they’re relativists thinking that there’s no such thing as truth and hence undermine any and all moral norms. When we start from any of these world views, it hinders our progression in faith, which requires us being “fools for Christ” with regard to faith.
  • St. Paul applies the whole discussion to the “jealousy and rivalry” that was reigning among the Corinthians. He suggested that worldly wisdom implied that they should align themselves with their earthly heroes in the transmission of the faith like people become partisans of political candidates, sports teams, favorite musicians and everything else. Paul turns that wisdom upside down saying that it’s not the Corinthians who belong to  Paul, Apollos or Cephas but rather the other way around, that all three of those apostles belong to them and are at their and God’s service — and not just them, but the world, life, death, the present and the future all belong to them as well, and they to Christ and Christ to God. But you need to be a fool to Christ (1 Cor 4:10) to grasp this.
  • As we prepare for the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Sunday, this focus on God’s wisdom is key to grasp the meaning of her life. The spirit of the Missionaries of Charity she founded, the spirit by which she lived, involved loving trust, total surrender and cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and Mary. She trusted in God’s wisdom in such a way that she loved that God of wisdom; she totally surrendered to God’s will that is one with that wisdom; and she did so with joy, because she knew, as a Christian fool, that that was paradoxically the path to eternal life and fulfillment. To spend one’s life caring for the poorest of the poor, to see Christ in them wearing a distressing disguise, to trust totally in God’s providence rather than in worldly security — all of this is lunacy in the world’s eyes. But not in God’s eyes. And Mother Teresa put out into the deep and God has brought abundant fruit through that holy craziness. As we approach her canonization, we ask her to intercede that we might imitate her trust, abandonment and joy.
  • The most striking example of the difference between worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom is with regard to the Eucharist. To the worldly wise, it’s absolutely foolish to believe that what starts out as bread and wine, after another human being says a few words, turns into God while maintaining all its appearances; it changes into the same Jesus Christ through whom all things were made, who was incarnate of the Virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was killed on the Cross, rose on the third day and now sits at the Father’s eternal right. It’s even more foolish to make this “bread” and “wine” the source and summit of our entire life, arranging our schedules to come here to receive him each day. But for those of us who are true fools for Christ, we recognize that there’s no more fitting place for us to be. And it’s from here that the Lord sends us out, like he would send Peter, Andrew, James and John, to be fishers of other fools.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 cor 3:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
Let no one deceive himself.
If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

R. (1) To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.

lk 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.