Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Knowing Our Limits

Today's First Reading, Wisdom 9:13-18, reminds us of our human limits. For instance, we cannot know God's plans on our own. We cannot understand His counsels (i.e., His judgments). They are beyond our natural capacity. Our reason can grasp only a small portion of the “big picture” that God has under His control. 

We don't even understand ourselves much of the time. As the author reminds us, “the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.” We don't always know our own motivations. We cannot see all the nuances and intricacies of our situations. We can't delve into the depths of our own minds and hearts. 

Why is this? The author has an idea: “For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.” We are body and soul, and sometimes our earthly nature weighs down our spirit. We give in to the demands of our bodies. We succumb to earthly desires, to temporal needs, and we sink. We get distracted. We worry and fret. We give in to our lower selves.

We can't even understand the world around us. The physical things of this earth are difficult for us to comprehend. So how can we ever begin to search out the things of Heaven? 

For that, God must send us His gift of wisdom. His Holy Spirit must flow into us, expanding our minds and showing us the path God wants us to take.

Jesus reiterates this in two parables in today's Gospel (Luke 14:25-33). First He says, 

Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'

The builder must understand his limits. He must calculate the materials and money he has on hand for his project and act according to his calculations. Otherwise, he will overshoot his resources and become the laughing stock of his neighbors. We, too, must carefully calculate the resources we have available. Otherwise, we will reach beyond our limits and reveal our foolishness. 

Just to bring home the point, Jesus offers us a second parable. 

Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.

The king, too, must recognize his limits. He must realize that he is unlikely to be victorious with his current level of manpower and make the prudent choice to sue for peace. We, too, should know our own strength, or lack thereof, and adjust our course of action accordingly. Otherwise, we could suffer a devastating defeat. 

What must we do, then, limited as we are? How can we even function in this world or hope to enter the next? We must rely on God's strength rather than on our own. He is all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, and all-present. He will give us what we need to function in this world and draw us to Himself for all eternity. We just need to recognize our limits and open our hearts to the One Who is limitless.

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