Founder’s Week, Day Seven

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At that moment he exulted in the Holy Spirit. He said, “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from wise and intelligent people and revealed them to infants.”

Luke 10: 21

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,
and his delight will be the fear of the Lord.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

Isaiah 11: 2-4

The Book of Job asks the questions: “Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?” (Job 28:20). In the opening of today’s gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus “at that moment . . . exulted in the Holy Spirit.” The expression that Luke uses is the same one he uses to describe Mary as she utters the Magnificat. The expression of wisdom in both Mary and Jesus, then, comes under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God is often quite different from human wisdom. It seems to come not from our own rational capacities, but rather as a result of our “exulting in the Holy Spirit.”

In Isaiah’s description of the promised ruler of Israel, we hear that a manifestation of his wisdom that rests in the Spirit of the Lord is that he does not judge by appearances or hearsay, and that he judges the poor and the afflicted in the same way as the rich and powerful. The wisdom that comes from the Spirit does not discriminate in the way “the wise and intelligent” do, but rather has more in common with the perspective of “infants.” One of the outstanding aspects of the life of the infant is vulnerability. It is this utter dependence that makes the infant the outstanding example of gospel poverty.

It is here that we see what makes it so difficult for us to grow wise in the Spirit. The whole effort of human development, at the pre-transcendent level, is to overcome the dependence and vulnerability of our infancy and childhood. We perceive and react to the world in light of this developmental task. Foremost for us is the work of self preservation and an autonomy and potency that can manage the reality of our inherent vulnerability. So, we measure and appraise “by appearance and hearsay,” that is in accord with the level of the perceived or real threat to our life and status. Today we are reminded that all of what we have achieved in this bodily and functional growth in wisdom is also an obstacle to our recognition of the deeper truth of things.

When the Lord came in the flesh, it was in utter poverty and vulnerability. Those who were unable to appreciate and embrace human vulnerability and dependence were unable to recognize that coming. To be sure, we must live mature and responsible lives. But that value

and goal must never be at the cost of forgetting who we most deeply are and of the need we have for God. The child who, in its vulnerability, is open without discrimination to whatever is given, is wiser than the one who limits the presence and gifts of the Mystery to what (s)he already knows and can manage. This Advent, may we dare to befriend the darkness of our own and our world’s need and vulnerability, that we might find there a wisdom that our strengths and competencies cannot know.

At times you will discover
that God’s ways are not your ways,
and God’s thoughts are not your thoughts.
When this happens,
try to surrender yourself trustingly
into the arms of God,
who knows you, understands you,
and loves you.

Perhaps you can repeat
with your Founder
this simple prayer
which he cherished:
O Lord, I cannot understand your ways,
but I must adore them.

Above all else remember
that your God is forever faithful.
In the words of the prophet God says:
Can a mother forget her infant
or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
I will never forget you.
I have branded you on the palms of my hands.

Xaverian Fundamental Principles

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