Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B Wisdom 7:7-11/ Psalm 90/Hebrews 4:12-13/Mark 10:17-30 THEME: Hierarchy of values and Choice

In our lives, we are required to make many choices. Many things attract us and we cannot have them all. To choose some things means we must denounce others. The readings of today are on this theme of choice . Of the many values that we encounter in human existence, which is the most important, the supreme value? The Book of Wisdom answers this question by stating that wisdom possesses a more precious value than others such as power, wealth, health and beauty (First Reading). The encounter with the rich young man allows Jesus to reaffirm the superior value of choosing him who is the wisdom of God over the goods and riches of this world (Gospel). Indeed, when we choose him, we get all that we lost a hundredfold. The authority and effective penetration of the Word of God deserves to be recognized as the supreme value, like God himself (Second Reading). Values are good in themselves but every individual must have a hierarchy of values. Both individuals and societies are governed by values. In other words, everything we do is based on what we believe to be good, and what objectively is good. Personal values determine a person´s way of being, living and acting, just like social values determine a society´s way of being, acting and living. In the first reading, the wise man taking cognisance of the moral decadence of his time as a result of acquisition of wealth and realizing that his whole life depended not on his wealth goes in search of wisdom. He says, " I preferred her to scepters and thrones and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her..." ( Wisdom 7:8). The wise man loves wisdom than health and beauty and he chooses to have her rather than light because her radiance never ceases( cf. v.10). Then he concludes that all things come along with her and in her hands unaccounted wealth (v. 11). Like the wise man, the psalmist implores God to help him number his days so that he may gain a wisdom of heart. The wisdom that the wise man is seeking for is presented to us in the second reading as alive and active namely the Word of God. This Word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Before him, no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render account. In the gospel reading, we see a direct opposite of the wise man in the first reading. We see one who allowed the pleasures of the world to cloud his vision of true wisdom, Jesus Christ himself. Again, we find one who desires wealth and beauty to wisdom. There are many values, and they affect different areas of human existence (economic, cultural, moral and religious values). Faced with the variety of values, an order or hierarchy must be established. In a true hierarchy, religious values take the first place, followed by moral ones, cultural ones and finally economic values. Any changes to this hierarchy are detrimental to the human person, and ultimately to society. If we place the goods of this world (economic values) above following Christ, our "pockets" will be fuller, to the detriment of the human person and of Christian faith. If fitness and beauty are placed above moral values, society will have great athletes and slim bodies to the detriment of more deeply human values, like justice, honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, and the dignity of the human person. The attachment to riches is evil for man, because it prevents him from following Jesus Christ and placing God in his heart. I must emphasise that Jesus the wisdom of God gives meaning to our desire to possess material things when we place him first in all things. He assures Peter who represent a humanity asking Jesus what he will get having placed Jesus first in everything. Characteristics of the supreme value that Jesus the wisdom of God assures us of are: First of all, the supreme value gives meaning and fullness to all other values. Love for God as a supreme value is not opposed to valuing material goods, or those that have to do with health or beauty. God wants us to have what is necessary to live, he wants us to pay attention to our health and the beauty of our appearance. Seen in this light, material goods are not only economic values, nor are health and beauty purely human values, for they all acquire a fullness that they do not have in themselves: they are part of God´s plan for man. The Word of God and his authority are not in contrast with the authority and words of parents, educators or government leaders. Rather, the Word of God bestows upon them a strength and effectiveness that they do not have in themselves. Second, it is God who enlightens human intelligence to see which is the highest value in a range of values and how these values rank in relation to one another. On our own, without God´s enlightenment, we run the risk of building up mistaken hierarchies. This is why the first reading begins precisely in the following way: "And so I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me." Third, the correct value always ends up rewarding both the individual and society with good fruits. "In her company all good things came to me," we are told in the Book of Wisdom. And Jesus replies to Peter, who represents the Twelve, "In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left his home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much... now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life." Wherever your value is, that is where your heart lies. The values that govern the life of a person or a society are very indicative. This is a reason for reflection in the light of our current social environment. In the statistics concerning the interest and values of citizens, what are the values of greatest interest and concern? Among many, it is health; in many others, work. Quite a few are also concerned with the environment. Then comes the everything else. Do we realize that in a correct scale of values these do not come first? On the contrary, such economic and practical values are at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid. Now, wherever your values are, that is where your heart lies. In other words, your values are where you have placed your entire self (your intelligence, will, emotions and sensitivity). You are worth what your values are worth. If your main value is health, for which you sacrifice all other values, your human and Christian worth will be rather low. If your prevailing value is Jesus, then you elevate yourself to a great human and Christian level which will have repercussions on your moral life, your work, your family and even in the way you look after your health. Let us keep this clear: having God as a supreme value prevents us from despising other values. What is more, it commands us to value them, care for them, and seek them in an orderly fashion. Jesus as our supreme value is our greatest treasure. In sum, according to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs which he presents in a form of a pyramid, at the base of the pyramid is what he calls, physiological needs ( food, health etc); followed by safety needs( shelter, security); belonging needs ( love, affection, sense of belonging ness); esteem needs ( self esteem and esteem from others); and self actualisation needs ( achieving one's highest potential). Maslow's presentation of the hierarchy of needs has no place for man's ultimate fulfillment in this life namely man's intimate relationship with his maker. That which was left out was provided by Viktor Frankl namely self- transcendence. This is exactly what Jesus invites us to today. He invites us to look beyond our selfish needs and have him; and be like him who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God but emptied himself taking the form of a servant; offering his life for you and me. He teaches us that in our hierarchy of needs, he is the first and the last; without him, our life will have no meaning.

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