LOVE IS THE KEY TO WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 COR 12:31-13:13; LUKE 7:31-35 ]
There are many questions in life for which we seek answers. Many of us have questions regarding their faith and the existence of God. We wonder whether He loves us and cares for us, or even if He could help us at all. We cannot understand why we have to suffer and why there is so much innocent and senseless suffering in the world. We also feel powerless to do good, and even if we do, we end up doing evil and selfish things. No matter how we search, we know that every answer is inadequate and imperfect. This was how St Paul felt when he wrote, “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but them we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.”
Indeed, in this life, we can never have the full answers to the mysteries of life. Our minds are finite and limited. We will never be able to comprehend everything even if they are revealed to us because we do not have the capacity to understand, just like a child who does not understand why his or her parents make him or her do certain things. When compared to the mind of God, our minds are like little children. St Paul exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36) Like St Paul, we can only surrender in faith to the mystery of God’s plan and love for us.
It is not the answers to our intellectual questions that we ultimately need, so long as we are assured that we are safe and secure in love. We look for answer after answer simply because we do not trust God enough to surrender our lives to Him. In the same way, if we do not trust someone, we will always be suspicious and keep asking what he is doing or where he is. We will keep checking on that person because we are unsure of the person’s love and fidelity. However, if we know that the person loves us above everything else and will protect us in love, then all questions and doubts will cease. When there is an assurance of love, all the questions become secondary. One does not need to know all about the person in order to love. One only needs to know that the person loves us for us to entrust our life to that person.
So too, it is, in our relationship with God. When we know that God loves us, we will stop asking all the intellectual questions about Him. Those of us who keep doubting God and asking questions are simply saying that we do not know Him well enough to entrust our lives to Him because He might not even exist, much less that He loves us. St Paul makes it clear, “among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor 2:6f) For this reason, St Paul remarks, “there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.” When there is love, our faith in Him is strong and our hope is certain. Only faith, hope and love give us the grace to persevere in times of difficulties and trials. Love pulls faith and hope together in this journey of life. So long as there is love, we will continue to keep our faith in God or in anyone whom we love, never giving up hope in God or in anyone.
It is love that enables us to see life from the perspective of our beloved. Love is not self-centered but always focused on the other. “It is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish.” Love makes us able to enter into the other person’s life. Such a love is always non-judgmental and always understanding. Even when the person fails us, love is always patient and kind. Indeed, St Paul says that love “does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.” Love therefore is the key to enter into the heart and mind of our beloved. Instead of judging them from our vantage point, we see them the way they look at themselves and their life.
When we lack this kind of love, then we become judgmental and inconsistent, like the religious leaders during the time of Jesus. They were not ready to accept the love of God and His Word spoken through John the Baptist or Jesus. They were always finding excuses and rationalizing to reject the truth spoken by them. “For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, ‘He is possessed.’ The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'” Jesus likened them to children in the market square shouting to one another, “We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t cry.” Their wisdom was the human wisdom of the world. It was not the wisdom that came from their love of God.
This also explains why many of us do not know how to truly love, because our love lacks trust. For many people love is reducible to having gifts from their loved ones. We need tangible signs for us to encounter the love of someone. Like the Corinthians, we seek to have more and more gifts, and we think that the gifts we receive is love itself. But it is not the gifts that we need, what we need is love itself. Gifts are important, but they are just signs. St Paul wrote, “But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.”
Consequently, St Paul urges us, “Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.” The only gift that can fulfill and complete us is when we have the love of God in our hearts. Otherwise, “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.” When there is love, we are always happy. The gifts we possess are means for us to express the love in our hearts when we share them with others. Unless the gifts come from a heart of love, they will only be used to manipulate others for our self-interests and insecurity.
To find the greatest love in life is to find Christ. The true wisdom is God’s love for us in Christ crucified. This is what the Lord prophesied, “Yet wisdom has been proved right by all her children.” St Paul wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:22-24) Christ’s love is captured in St Paul’s poem of love. His love is unconditional and forgiving. His love is enduring and faithful. When we experience such love, we can surrender our lives completely to Him as St Paul did. With the psalmist, we say, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.