The essence of Wisdom.

November 11, 1999, St. Martin of Tours

Wisdom 7, 22 - 8, 1 + Luke 17, 20-25

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The book of Wisdom was compiled about 100 years before Christ and written in Greek; the author was well educated in the history and scriptures of his people, and also influenced by Greek philosophy. He sings of the blessings of Wisdom, and as we have seen, an essential aspect of Wisdom is justice, and the promise is clear: "wickedness prevails not over Wisdom."

Everybody wants to know when and where the Kingdom of God will come. The people of Israel labored under colonial oppression, they were ready for the demise of the Romans and the coming of God's Reign on earth. Jesus says that the birth and growth of this Kingdom is not announced by trumpets and cymbals. It is a quiet arrival, hidden, starts small, grows big. In fact, the Kingdom was already among us, 2,000 years ago when these events were happening.

This seems to me to be good advice. Many people are convinced the Second Coming will happen soon. But the fact is, nobody knows the hour of that great event at the end of time as we know it. What we should be concerned about is the First Coming of Jesus, and the growth of the Kingdom of God among us right here, right now. At times it's hard to see that Kingdom, the oppression and wickedness of the world is very strong, flagrant, and omnipresent. But if we open our eyes and look, we suddenly see beyond the forest and notice that "there be trees there." Each act of goodness, justice, peace, and love is evidence of the victory of the Reign of God over wickedness and evil.

Today is the memorial of St. Martin of Tours, who lived during the 4th century in France (known in those days as Gaul.) He was a soldier and a catechumen. One day during the winter he was confronted by a freezing, half-naked beggar; he sliced his military cloak into two pieces and gave one to the beggar. He later requested discharge from the military, and gave up his sword. As his holiness grew, he was elected a bishop by popular acclamation, and performed many miracles. He is responsible for the evangelization of much of rural France. He is invoked as the patron saint of beggars.

Today is also the memorial of the end of the first part of the Great World War of the 20th century (it seems to me that World Wars I and II were the same war, separated by a 21 year armistice -- the "11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month". This traumatic event set the stage for much death and suffering in this century, and the causes of the war itself are among the most ignoble in history. The German and Austrian imperialists went to war with the British, French, Italian, and Russian imperialists, and they managed to drag the US into the fray. It was not a war for democracy, but rather money and colonies. We were on the side of the inventors of the concentration camp (the British, who had soldiers in more countries than any other empire). Many people died in that stupid conflict among first cousins (the British, German, and Russian emperors were first cousins, all grandsons of Queen Victoria of England), and the war was immediately followed by great flu pandemics which killed additional millions.

The stupid and short-sighted peace forced on the Germans -- the Treaty of Versaille -- set the stage for World War II and created the objective conditions which made the rise of Hitler and the Nazis possible. Further, because of the war, the Germans gave Lenin and the Bolsheviks assistance to travel from Switzerland where they were in exile, back to Russia. Consider how much human suffering that meddling attempt to take Russia out of the war has caused. How many tens of millions of people did the Communists kill over the next 70 years?

World War I made World War II inevitable. Let us remember this day all those who have died in war this century, and let us pray for our bi-partisan national leadership who are leading us again down into the darkness of war, imperialism, death, and conquest. When the United States of America falls onto the ash heap of history, it will be in large part because we have not learned the historical lessons of this century.

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