NOTE: Somehow in the early morning, I landed on the readings for yesterday thinking they were for today, and did my writing based on that. Today is actually the Feast of the Assumption of Mary the Mother of God, August 15th, not the Memorial for Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr and Priest, August 14th.
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The memorial for Maximilian Kolbe is a good opportunity to consider the cost of being a disciple and true follower of Jesus in these difficult days, as increased persecution looms. I’ve chosen the first reading from these suggested alternative readings to commemorate the memorial for my reflection today – a reading from the Old Testament Book of the Wisdom of Solomon.
It is so beautiful, and so deep in insight, you’d think you were reading the words of Jesus Himself. Little wonder, they are words of wisdom about the WORD who is WISDOM: Jesus.
Jesus cited Solomon as the very pinnacle of wisdom, comparing him to Himself, noting just one significant difference (not in the substance of that wisdom, but in the nature of that wisdom), i.e., whereas Solomon spoke words of deep wisdom, Jesus “IS” THE WISDOM OF GOD.
When you read the Book of Wisdom, it’s impossible not to see Jesus throughout – the language, terms and concepts used speak the same language of spiritual intimacy with God brought to us by the mercy and love of God, but only for those trusting in God.
Even the language of ‘abiding’ in God and sharing in both the Divinity and eternal life of God is present in Solomon’s writing.
Uh Oh….More Darnel!
We again see in the Gospel passage where Jesus speaks about Solomon, an interpretation of Jesus that puts words in His mouth He didn’t say, which distorts the intended meaning, which makes His reference to the wisdom of Solomon less than insightful to say the least!
Take the English Standard Version for instance, a very popular translation of the Scriptures. Here’s what it says:
“The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
Many translations say “something greater,” however, if you take a careful look at the EXACT transliteration of the Greek, word by word, you will find no such word uttered by Jesus!
That’s a straight-up word-for-word translation. Might it be the case that grammar and syntax I don’t know about the construction of Greek sentences actually makes it mean “something greater” even though that particular Greek word is not used?
If we go to the sublime work in Young’s Literal Translation, we get the answer to that important question: no. The meaning is what the literal word-for-word indicates, only when properly translated for smoothness and flow, sounds like this:
42 `A queen of the south shall rise up in the judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and lo, a greater than Solomon is here!
Bingo, there you go! That’s exactly the correct interpretation of what Jesus said.
It’s not a “something” that Jesus referred to, but a PERSON – HIMSELF (picture Him pointing his finger at his chest when uttering these words, with the following intonation in His voice: “Greater than Solomon? Behold! (pointing finger at chest) here!”
Which is pretty much exactly the sense in Young’s Literal Translation of the Greek.
THAT is why Solomon is deemed by Jesus to be so wise; so wise in fact that the Queen heard wisdom of such purity and truth that what she heard will put her at the judgment! What Solomon writes isn’t ‘less’ than what Jesus says in some competition – they are about what Jesus announced and pronounced about who He was and why He was born into the world: to testify to the truth and save us from sin and death, again, what Solomon writes about with words of wisdom all about Jesus, who is not only the Wisdom of God, but the Understanding of God, the Way to God, and the Truth.
So let’s look to see if we can find Jesus and His Gospel Message of eternal salvation in the wisdom of Solomon.
In Luke 11:49-51 we read:
“Therefore also the Wisdom [JESUS] of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. ”
In Matthew 23:34-35 we read:
33 `Serpents! brood of vipers! how may ye escape from the judgment of the gehenna? 34 `Because of this, lo, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and of them ye will kill and crucify, and of them ye will scourge in your synagogues, and will pursue from city to city; 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood being poured out on the earth from the blood of Abel the righteous, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar: [young’s literal translation].
That is Jesus speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees after giving them a long list of “Woe to you….” chastisements.
We see in the Wisdom of Solomon reading – just as Jesus did in fact declare to the leaders of His day – that fidelity to God leads not only to “understanding truth,” as Solomon notes, but to persecution, and possibly, like the person for whom the reading was selected for this Memorial – martyred for that faith – just as happened with Maximilian Kolbe.
Who is Maximilian Kolbe?
There are many good biographies of this great person, so I’ll give only the bare bones bio info for the benefit of any readers who may not be familiar with him…. in the form of a picture, with a title and subtitle of an article written on him:
That pretty much says all that needs to be said for my purposes.
MORE ON SOLOMON
This reading I’ve chosen from Solomon – one that you have likely heard before, seeing that it’s one of the most popular Old Testament readings chosen by family for funeral services of loved ones. And for good reason.
It contains the promise of eternal life and speaks of the faithful as those who God “found them worthy of himself,” and “and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself,” to share in the peace and joy of his eternal glory, where “…the faithful shall abide with him in love”.
As the reading concludes:
The LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
How beautiful is that!
I have woven these themes together: martyrdom; fidelity to Jesus; the reward of the Just; etc. for a very deliberate reason: to highlight that each and every one of us will very soon be faced with a choice to opt for God, for life and the belief in the sanctity of that life, or for a Godless vision of the future that will separate the soul from the source of life for eternity and make existence (spiritual awareness) a literal “unliving” hell – otherwise referred to as the “Illumination of Conscience.”
Repent by acknowledging the truth that we are all sinners who have “fallen short of the glory of God,” and with meekness and humility, accept the truth, then accept the mercy and love of Jesus so as to be with the souls of the just, then with resurrected bodies of glory like Jesus, for eternity.
Jesus, you are the wisdom and understanding of God, the perfect and complete reflection of his majesty and power and glory. All that is exists is because of you, and exists for you, as do we, so we give you thanks and praise You for your boundless love and mercy toward us.
Take our hand this day, so we may only go where you lead, only do what you do, only think what you would think in our same situations, and surrender our will to do, like You, the Will of our Father. We ask this in Your name, our eternal Lord, King of glory and the Kingdom of God, and our Saviour.” Amen.