Message: I invite you to join me in seeking the counsel of God.
This Sunday I would like to introduce a series of homilies on seeking God's counsel. We are at the beginning of a new school year - and in our parish we are continuing a two-year study of the Bible in our Generations of Faith.
The reading from the Book of Wisdom helps to understand why it is important for us to know the Bible. It begins by underscoring the limitations of human knowledge.
First, we have only a limited understanding of our natural world. "Scarce do we guess the things on earth," says Wisdom. Who imagined that North Dakota would become our oil capital!?* And what about the material world itself? When I was in high school it seemed fairly simply. We learned that everything was made of atoms - each one had a nucleus with electrons circling it like planets going around the sun. Today students learn about quarks (six "flavors"), leptons (also six "flavor"), gluons (eight) and, of course, the Higgs boson. And if that's not enough, some physicists speculate that the whole universe is made up of some kind of string. The more scientists discover about the material world the more mysterious it seems. Scarce do we guess the things on earth.
The make-up of the material world is mysterious. So is personal experience. Even those things "within our grasp we find with difficulty." I'm sure you have had the experience of being with a family when one member starts describing some significant past event. Another member jumps in and says, "No, that's not the way it happened." Even things close to us we know only with difficulty.
So the author of Wisdom says that if we cannot know the precise nature of visible things or even of events we have personally experienced, how can we understand the invisible, divine wisdom - what he calls the "counsel of God." Like you, I often wonder about suffering, disease and death. Why does one person die young, while someone else lives an extended life? It does not make sense that some suffer terribly (e.g. civilians, children in Syria) while others seems to get off easy.
The Book of Wisdom asks those questions, but it does not sink into skepticism or despair. If you read the entire book, you will see that it give a surprise answer: Although our lives seem like an unsolvable puzzle, a mystery we can never understand, still we can know something of the God's counsel, of his design. Not by our own intelligence, but because he has chosen to freely reveal something of himself to us. Read the whole Book of Wisdom and you will see that it offers an extended reflection on God's revelation and how it applies to us.
I would like to do something similar in the coming weeks. Obviously, I cannot offer anything as in-depth as the Book of Wisdom, but I would like to propose a simple way of understanding God's counsel, his revelation to us. It is called the "Geography of Faith." I learned it from a fine bishop - Bishop Liam Cary. He is bishop of Eastern Oregon. With such a huge territory, he travels a lot and uses that time to pray, learn from CD's and prepare his mind to give retreats and sermons. He has developed a beautiful way of understanding the Bible and how it applies to our lives. He calls it the Geography of Faith.**
It happens that next Sunday's Old Testament reading mentions the three basic countries (or places) in that geography. Learning about them will help you make sense of the Bible - and most important, make sense of your own life. Geography of Faith will relate most directly to young people - but all of us will benefit. I encourage you to return next Sunday to learn more.
So, for this Sunday we hear Wisdom describe the limits of human understanding. And the great question: Who can know the counsel of God? Who can conceive what the Lord intends? The answer is that we can only know what he chooses to reveal to us. I invite you to join me in seeking the counsel of God. We will do that by exploring the Geography of Faith. As today's Psalm says, "Teach us...that we may gain wisdom of heart." Amen.
*As of February, the state had 8,500 wells and was producing about 779,000 barrels of oil per day. With the current technology, each well is expected to produce for about 30 years, and each one will produce about 550,000 barrels of oil. http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/04/north-dakota-oil-facts/
**To fellow homilists: Unless you had a similar conversation with Bishop Cary or attended one of his retreats, you will want to say something acknowledging, "Bishop Liam Cary has developed the concept of a Geography of Faith." You can find videos of his retreat at Youtube by searching for "Bishop Liam Cary Geography of Faith." Here is the link for the first video of seven. Well worth watching.
From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Third Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Bishop Bob Barron's Homilies
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Resources for Geography of Faith
An excellent 12 minute homily by Archbishop Sartain, followed by Creed and Prayers of Faithful. Also has original song by Susan Howard beginning at 17:28. Warning: best not to watch on Youtube because of an unsavory ad on the side.
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
KRA's & SMART Goals (updated September 2013)
A Homilist's Prayer