How tranquil is the life
Of him who, shunning the vain world’s uproar,
May follow, free from strife,
The hidden path, of yore
Chosen by the few who conned true wisdom’s lore!
He heeds not though fame raise
His name afar on wings of rumor flung,
He cares not for the praise
Of cunning flatterer’s tongue,
Nor for what truth sincere would leave unsung.
(“The Life Removed” by Fray Luis de Leon, 1528-1591)
“Faith above all”; “Reason as the measure of all things”; “Harmony in society as the greatest achievement”; “The person as the ultimate goal”; “The rejection of God as a sign of authentic maturity”; and so many other intermediate variants. How difficult it is to find balance in our lives!
We humans have intelligence, will and aspirations. From the youngest to the eldest, in all ages and all cultures, human beings have created a visible footprint of these characteristics throughout the whole world. Always in search of the most profound truth, always unsatisfied, always determined to attempt what appears to be impossible.
Following the example of Jesus Christ, our teacher, we his disciples have the loving duty to put our intelligence to work at its maximum capacity in order to perfect science and technology. We also have the privilege of expanding the horizons of beauty, joy and happiness, thanks to the desires of our hearts and the indomitable strength of our wills.
The combination of this potential in each woman and man has brought about throughout history innumerable accomplishments in science, technology, art and philosophy, each one resulting in the preponderance of each one’s particular skill in the lives of others, and in many cases creating painful ruptures.
By his earthly life, Jesus came to show us that our Creator wants all human beings to have life in abundance which comes from discovering the truth and embracing it with all our will so that we as human beings might ascend to what we call sanctity.
One of the most beautiful compliments I have ever heard was attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, because it was said that he was the wisest among the saints and the saintliest among the wise. St. Thomas, like so many other great role models, knew how to use his intelligence as an instrument to discover the wisdom of God in all creation and to love through the dedication of his whole life in order to perfect it.
As a man, Jesus lived his life with that same interior intensity, and discovered its presence in his first disciples, and in his personal prayer he would ask his Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (John 17:15-19)
Jesus wants us to be very wise and very holy: “Consecrate them in the truth.” Finding the right balance will continue to create tension in our lives as we work to defeat falsehood in our world, as we correct present and past mistakes, and because we are faithful disciples of the Teacher who came to instruct on how to be fully human. That teacher has taught us how to guard our intelligence and our hearts from the wiles of the evil one we call the father of lies. He tries to distract us from the Teacher and distorts truth with his pleasing voice. That evil spirit makes us believe and trust in our own fame and human wisdom, which is far from the divine wisdom presented by Jesus.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26) The few who have achieved the true wisdom of the Jesus the Teacher will discover like Fray Luis that the noise of the world does not fulfill the aspirations of the true disciples who want to be completely human according to the original design of the loving Creator.
The men and women called saints have also been very wise because they have been attentive to the teachings of the Master of Truth, just like Mary, who was the most wise and holy disciple. Let us learn how they let themselves be guided by Jesus, teacher of humanity. He still has much to teach us.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - September 2017
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx