This is my prayer, that your love may increase more and more, in knowledge and every kind of perception. –Philippians 1:9
These were St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi, when he wrote to them from prison.
The church in Philippi was the first that St. Paul founded in Europe. It was the community that was most dear to him. The purpose of his letter was to beg the Philippians to comfort him by persevering in faith and love.
Let’s pay careful attention to what the Apostle wrote: “This is my prayer…that you may increase in knowledge and every kind of perception.”
St. Paul did not write to the Philippians to correct them. They had not abandoned the true faith, nor gotten confused, nor slipped back into paganism or into Judaism. The Philippians were on the right track, and St. Paul rejoiced in it.
But he prayed that they might increase in knowledge and discernment. A few moments ago, we made a similar prayer for ourselves. At the beginning of Mass, we prayed: “Father, let us share the wisdom of Christ.” Let us share the wisdom of Christ.
We might honestly wonder, dear brothers and sisters of the Church, whether there is any wisdom in this world. Is it all meaningless nonsense? We might honestly ask the Lord: Sweet Lord, why do the nations rage? Why do the innocent suffer? Why does rain and snow fall on somebody’s wedding day? Why are the Redskins so bad? Why is the intersection of Benning Road and Maryland Avenue like a moon-crater museum? Why can’t we have any satisfaction in this world?
The Lord has an answer for us, friends:
Jerusalem, bear on your head the miter that displays the glory of the eternal name. (Baruch 5:2)
Tomorrow, Archbishop Wuerl will visit Holy Name. He will wear his miter. At Holy Mass, the Bishops of the Church wear miters, unique pointy hats. You’ve probably seen the Pope wearing his miter.
The first miters were worn by the priests of the Old Covenant. They wore the miter as a symbol of the “horns of Moses.” Moses did not actually have horns. The horns represent the Holy Spirit coming into Moses’ mind, when he received the Law of God.
The “miter which displays the glory of the eternal name” belongs not just to the bishops, but to the Church as a whole. The holy miter of the Church is the wisdom of Christ Himself, the gift of wisdom that comes from on high, the wisdom that first taught Moses and now teaches us.
The Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom renews our minds. The gift transforms our point-of-view, so that we can perceive reality as Christ perceives it. The prayer we will say after Holy Communion today says it all: “Lord, teach us to judge wisely the things of earth and to love the things of heaven.”
The man who is spiritually wise judges everything relative to God and heaven. The things of earth—the things we can see, which delight us or annoy us—these things are way-stations on the pilgrim road. But the things of heaven—the limitless beauty of Christ crucified, the resplendent purity of His Mother, the sweet friendship of all the angels and saints—the wise man lives with his mind caught up in these things. He judges everything by heavenly light.
We are not born with heavenly wisdom. But God does give it to those who seek it.
Let us heed the words of St. Paul. Let us acknowledge that we must grow in the true wisdom of Christ–learning more, loving better, discerning better. We must pray for the gift of wisdom always. And we must consistently listen to our teachers and learn wisdom from them.
We need teachers. The Lord could have made us full of wisdom at the beginning of life. Or He could have set up the Church so that He Himself was the only teacher, without any intermediaries. Then He would just have poured wisdom into our minds like syrup on a pancake.
But He has set things up in another way. He has chosen human instruments to teach with His authority. We instruments of His are unworthy of the office we have been given. But the Lord has chosen us to be teachers anyway, so all we can do is try to be faithful and teach the truth as best we can.
Tomorrow, when the Archbishop comes, he will explain my duties to me and to everyone. He will teach me. Then he will have me renew my consecration as a priest. He will help me to dedicate myself to being the best pastor of Holy Name I can be.
Please pray for me, that I will always learn what I am supposed to learn, so that I can teach you what I am supposed to teach you.
We are here together today so that we can grow in the wisdom of Christ. May we be in heaven together when all the teaching is finished and we are perfectly wise.