Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 8, 2013

MI_Cappella_Portinari_-_Arca_S._Pietro_-_PrudentiaCentral Idea: The wisest thing is to do the will of God. Doctrine: Natural and Supernatural prudence. Practical Application: Opportunities to do good.

For the Lectionary 129 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The wisest thing is to do the will of God.

Reading 1 Wis 9:13-18b

  • How can human beings know the mind of God unless he reveals it?
  • He has revealed it fully in the person of his Son. Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God who has sent the Holy Spirit of God for us to know God’s will.
  • We know what God wants: To love him and our neighbor with a sacrificial love and to live upright lives. To make this possible, he gives us the grace of the Sacraments.
  • With grace enlightening our reason with the truths of the Faith, we can know what God wants in general and can properly apply this wisdom to the concrete circumstances of our lives.
  • We can live each day and perform each act according to the will of God.
  • Our path on earth will be straight.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.

  • We number our days correctly when we realize we are contingent. In other words, we exist but we don’t have to exist, and one day we will die.
  • Because we are contingent we are also dependent on God, ultimately for everything.
  • This is why we ask for God’s gracious care and for him to prosper our work, without our neglecting our part in it.

Reading 2 Phmn 9-10, 12-17

  • Philemon had a slave, Onesimus, who ran away.
  • Both men became followers of Christ.
  • Paul wants to heal the division between them. He wants Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a beloved brother in Christ.
  • As an Apostle, Paul could order Philemon to do this, but he wants Philemon to act out of freedom, to make the choice by his own free will. He wants Philemon to act with supernatural prudence.

Gospel Lk 14:25-33

  • Because Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Son of God, come down to earth to redeem us from sin and sanctify us, he has the authority to make extraordinary demands on us.
  • Here we can see another meaning of the narrow gate (Lk 13:24) that leads to salvation. Two weeks ago we saw it as doing good. Now we can see that the narrow gate is the very person of Christ. Love for him has to come before everything. This means we have to renounce anything that is in conflict with Christ’s will.
    • If there is a conflict between Christ and your possessions, you must renounce those goods.
    • If there is a conflict between Christ and your own will, you must renounce your will.
    • If there is a conflict between Christ and the will of your family, you must renounce your family’s will.
    • We must not love anything “over” God.
  • Christ does not mean we must really hate our family or anything else that is ours. He means they must be secondary and subordinated to his will.

Doctrine: Natural and supernatural prudence

  • The simplest definition of prudence is probably “sound decision-making.”
  • Aristotle’s precise definition of prudence is rendered in Latin as “recta ratio agibilium” or “right reason applied to practice.” “Right reason” means seeing things the way they really are. “Applied to practice” means acting accordingly.  Prudence then means seeing reality and acting accordingly.
  • Another way of explaining prudence is knowing the best action to take. Other synonyms for prudence are foresight or wisdom. Prudence is the wisdom to “foresee” what might come of various actions so you can choose the one that will be the most effective or do the most good. That is why when we have done something imprudent we say, “That was a stupid thing to do.” It was wrong reason applied to practice.
  • According to Thomas Aquinas, there are three steps involved in any act of prudence. They are counsel, judgment, and command.
    • First, a prudent person takes counsel. That is, prudence searches for the means best suited to achieving some end. Prudence sizes up the situation by gathering as much information as is necessary and possible. It also takes into account moral questions that are relevant. For example, one can prepare for a test by cheating, but that method is unethical.
    • Second, prudence makes judgments about the various possible ways to proceed. It says one way is better than the others. It makes a choice of which action would be best.
    • Third, prudence commands action. It says to the will, “Do this.” This step seems obvious, but it is one people can find hard to take, so they do nothing.
  • Any human being who wants to can develop natural prudence. But as followers of Christ we want and need and have supernatural prudence. The counsel of a Christian is enlightened by the light of the Gospel. Our “right reason” takes into account God’s standards. God’s grace will show us what is best, help us make the right judgment, and spur us to taking the correct action.
  • Supernatural prudence is the decision to enter by the narrow gate. The work of our hands that will make us truly prosperous is to take up our cross.

Practical Application: Opportunities to do good

  • Most of the time, people deal with life as it happens to them, responding as best they can. The wise person will deal with these happenings prudently; that is, he will gather information, make a judgment, and then take action. The wise Christian does all this in light of the Gospel, trying to discern the will of God, helped by grace.
    • This is the ordinary role of prudence in our lives. It is very important.
  • But another way in which prudence can operate in our life is in regard to opportunities. An opportunity is a condition or a situation which is favorable to reach some desirable goal.
    • (1) In the presence of God, you can ask yourself who you are and what you want and who God is and what he wants.
    • (2) You can continue your prayer and discernment by examining your current situation. “Where” are you?
    • (3) Then you can make a list of current opportunities.
    • (4) Finally, spend time praying about what impact those opportunities could have if you took them up. Which opportunities could have the most positive impact? One way of doing this is asking yourself, “What one opportunity do I have, that if I took advantage of it, would have the most positive impact on my life?”
  • Every one of us has opportunities to do good that are real but potential. With God’s help and our own good efforts we can make them actual.








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