History and present times are abundant with false prophets. They tend
to be more accepted and popular than the divinely inspired ones since they
tell us what we enjoy hearing. A biblically notable case is that of Hananiah
(whose name means "the Lord is gracious") and Jeremiah. Hananiah was the
popular one, whose revelations did not come from God. Jeremiah proclaimed
the Jewish exile under Babylonian rule would last seventy years, while Hananiah
promised it would continue for only two more. Who would you want to believe?
During an assaultive confrontation between the two in public, Jeremiah
was the gracious one, telling Hananiah that he would be most happy to have
his reputation suffer and be publicly scorned in favor of Hananiah's good
news prophesy coming true. Jeremiah ended the encounter by walking away in
peace, rather than in anger, self-righteousness or pride in having the last
word. Later, in private, Jeremiah informed Hananiah that the latter would
be dead within the year, and Hananiah was. That was the test of Old Testament
prophets with the consequence of death: Every word of a true prophet of
God would be manifested in reality.
One of Jesus' attributes was that of a prophet. Jesus predicted many things
that were fulfilled and many still waiting for that day. Some detractors
point out that Jesus' declarations of increasing "wars and rumors of wars"
is a no-brainer. I could predict with certainty that this time next year there
will be no peaceful reprieve from terrorism and international violence. Such
is the nature of the human condition and no one would hail me as a prophet
this time next year. Should I declare that a year from now the entire world
will be at peace and all nations be in loving harmony, many eyebrows would
raise and this Reflection in particular would be set aside to shove in my
face when the time came to prove me wrong.
Predictions of peace are far more incredible than those of war, plagues,
and natural disasters. But Jesus made those as well. "Peace I leave with
you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not
let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). Jesus is no
prophet unless this promise-prediction manifests itself in those He addressed.
Has it? And to what degree?
Here we call upon Wisdom. In Proverbs, wisdom is anthropomorphized into
a Person of the female gender. That's also the case in the deuterocanonical
Book of Wisdom: "Wisdom shines bright and never grows dim; those who love
her and look for her can easily find her. She is quick to make herself known
to anyone who desires her. Get up early in the morning to find her, and you
will have no problem; you will find her sitting at your door. To fasten your
attention on Wisdom is to gain perfect understanding. If you look for her,
you will soon find peace of mind, because she will be looking for those who
are worthy of her, and she will find you wherever you are. She is kind and
will be with you in your every thought" (Wisdom 6:12-16). Is this our experience?
And to what degree?
"I pray to God that my thoughts may be worthy of what I have learned,
and that I may speak according to his will. He is Wisdom's guide; he gives
correction to those who are wise...I learned things that were well known
and things that had never been known before, because Wisdom, who gave shape
to everything that exists, was my teacher" (Wisdom 7:15, 21-22).
"Wisdom has been my love. I courted her when I was young and wanted to
make her my bride. I fell in love with her beauty. She glorifies her noble
origin by living with God, the Lord of all, who loves her. She is familiar
with God's mysteries and helps determine his course of action. Is it good
to have riches in this life? Nothing can make you richer than Wisdom, who
makes everything function. Is knowledge a useful thing to have? Nothing is
better than Wisdom, who has given shape to everything that exists. Do you
love justice? All the virtues are the result of Wisdom's work: justice and
courage, self-control and understanding. Life can offer us nothing more valuable
than these. Do you want to have wide experience? Wisdom knows the lessons
of history and can anticipate the future. She knows how to interpret what
people say and how to solve problems. She knows the miracles that God will
perform, and how the movements of history will develop. So I decided to take
Wisdom home to live with me, because I knew that she would give me good advice
and encourage me in times of trouble and grief" (Wisdom 8:2-9).
Is this not a magnificent poetic description of the Christ? He is "the
Truth" and therefore the Wisdom. Do we not long to unite with Wisdom as the
bridegroom unites with his bride? She seems elusive in this convoluted world,
yet she pursues us, waiting at the door of our hearts as we awaken from
sleep. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become
for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord' " (1
Are we self-proclaimed prophets, mistaking our puny understanding of things
for Wisdom? Do we think ourselves to be wise, to have things about the world,
others and ourselves figured out? Do we make decisions based on such limited
understanding we mistake for Wisdom? How wise is the instruction of Christ
to refrain from judging others' hearts! Christ has "become for us wisdom
from God." How can we distinguish between God's wisdom and our own?
Let's think of someone who we see having some kind of compulsion or obsession.
"He has no will power or personal strength," we might observe. Then let's
inventory our own obsessions or habitual practices. We should pick a strong
one. Let's not drink morning coffee, or any at all; take a different route
to work, even if it means leaving earlier; watch no TV; don't listen to our
car radio or music CDs while driving; on all our days off, don't do any chores
around the house but spend the entire day doing nothing, being physically
unproductive. If none of these are compulsions for us, let's pick something,
one or more, which are well ingrained in us, and deny ourselves of them for
a month. Then let's assess our eagerness to judge others for their lack of
will and strength.
We tend to overrate "will." Prideful reliance on our own will is antithetical
to the Gospel and the scriptural teachings. We are committing the sin of idolatry
(of the self) when we attribute righteousness and good behavior to our will
and successful effort rather than "boasting in the Lord" for the blessings
have been given to us and denied others.
When we speak to others out of our own wisdom, we may wish to later reflect
on the genesis of that wisdom in which we often take pride. Is it the wisdom
of our egos or of God, as poetically and wondrously described in the Scriptures?
They are quite distinguishable. The wisdom of our egos are often colored
with fear-infused predictions and a certainty that we are right and have it
all figured out, with a overlay of superiority. In such wisdom, we tend to
withdraw loving expressions and compassion, replacing them with condemnation
Wisdom, the Christ, enters into our domain with gentleness, unconditional
love, a waiting at the door of our hearts, and the provision of dignity
no matter how wretched our interior and exterior lives. Christ told us,
"Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble." Those of us aspiring to Christlikeness
must take heed of that learning, and keep in our esteem and clothe in dignity
(not scorn) the least, most despicable of our brothers and sisters no matter
what their sins, faults, and compulsions. Perhaps not in the same ways,
we, however, are just like them. The compassion and Christlike regard we
are able to provide others outside our families (as in prison ministries
and missionary endeavors) somehow lose their vigor when we are dealing with
intimates. Note that "tough love" approaches are based in secular views,
although as appealing as false prophets are. Jesus did not practice "tough
love," but rather redemptive love. They sure feel differently!
Christ promised, prophetically, peace in our spirits. He didn't promise
happiness in the world. Contrarily, He promised suffering and tribulations.
The presence of peace does not need the absence of pain or unhappiness. For
too many years my degree of happiness depended upon circumstances and the
way people thought of me and treated me, rightfully or wrongfully. Wisdom,
whose Source is outside ourselves, invites us into her. Upon our awakening
she greets us at our hearts' doors, urging us to remain quiet for a while
and listen to her. We may delightfully hear, "This is the day the Lord has
made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).