The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God (1 Cor 3, 19)
There are not a few of us who like to make godfathers and godmothers of renowned people. Among us Filipinos, the more influential people we have at our disposal, the more assured of favors we feel. There is no way to fit on baptismal or marriage certificates the names of sponsors with their political or professional titles.
It does not strike me as odd, therefore, that someone with a complaint against his brother should go to an emerging teacher. I do not find it strange either that Jesus would decline to mediate. He avoids even the appearance of influence-peddling practiced by some Pharisees. He has accused these fools face to face of greed and uncleanness, the remedy to which is almsgiving (Lk 11, 39-41). And he now goes back to the matter of greed, making a teachable moment of the request of the one who does not know to ask as he ought.
The one who asks does not get what he wants, yet he receives, in accordance with the Gospel promise. Jesus gives much more upon warning: “Take care to guard against all greed.” He proposes a radical solution to inequalities, injustices, conflicts, wars, murders (Jas 4, 2).
The Master teaches that they are fools, those who, relying on wealth, devote themselves to an unfettered amassing of it. If Qoheleth makes us think of our last days so that our efforts, achievements and concerns may not be excessive and in vain, Jesus, for his part, puts before us our mortality to awaken our unconditional trust in God. Money never saves from death. Only God can do anything and suffices. And the wise are those who know it and live according to this knowledge.
So then, Jesus subverts the established order. He turns worldly wisdom into foolishness and takes as wisdom what the world rejects as foolishness (1 Cor 1, 20). In the community which is “an upside-down sign” (Robert P. Maloney, C.M.), the slaves are those who boast of their freedom to do what they like in a free and consumerist market, yet are left consumed by work and worries, exhausted and restless even at night. The free, on the other hand, are found among those who aspire towards heavenly things.
Those held back by earthly things, no matter how many and how valuable their possessions, are paralyzed by the fear of death and have no defense against it. In contrast, those who belong to the little flock, though poor, powerless and without influence, are not afraid, in the midst of trials and tribulations, even of those who kill the body, for they recognize that God takes notice of them and does not undervalue them (Lk 12, 4-6). Their trust in Providence gives them courage also to share spontaneously and liberally what they have, storing thus in heaven an inexhaustible treasure that can neither be stolen nor destroyed (Lk 12, 32-33).
Thus, too, do those who trust in God work for the food that endures for eternal life. And when they are assembled before the one who will dictate the eternal sentence, they will have as mediators the least of the brothers and sisters, not the influential people. These intercessors will say to the Supreme Judge something like (to use St. Vincent de Paul’s words to the Daughters of Charity): “My God, this is the Sister who helped us for love of you; my God, this is the Sister who taught us to know you” (Coste IX, 253).